Head coach Bobby Clark announces retirement
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, November 29, 2017
After 17 years as the head coach of the Notre Dame men’s soccer program, Bobby Clark announced his retirement late Tuesday afternoon.
“This has been possibly the hardest decision I have had to make in my time at Notre Dame,” Clark said in a statement. “I have loved my time at this University and, although I have kept postponing retirement, with my 73rd birthday coming up next year I felt it was time to be in a position to spend quality time with Bette, my wife of almost 50 years, my children and importantly, my seven grandchildren. I have always looked at my team as extended family, so the players will be greatly missed. If I stretch my collegiate coaching career back to when I began at Dartmouth back in 1985 then I really do have a lot of extended family.
“Giving up a dream job teaching the sport that I am addicted to has not been easy. Never a week goes by without one of my former players dropping me an email or making a call. The biggest part of being a teacher/coach is that you, and the sport you teach, help them grow up in a positive yet competitive environment. That has been very fulfilling, but doing it in the special environment that has been created around Notre Dame is very rewarding. I must thank the Notre Dame athletic department, which is superbly run, all my assistant coaches, trainers, administrators, fellow coaches in other sports, the support staff and everyone who has helped make this a very special 17 years of my life.”
The Scotland native produced 369 victories over his 31 years as a collegiate coach, and led the Irish to 216 wins and a national championship in 2013 during his time at Notre Dame. During his 17 seasons in South Bend, the Irish earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament in all but one of them, highlighted by the national-title winning 2013 campaign, when the Irish opened the season with a 13-game unbeaten streak — earning themselves the No. 1 spot in the national polls for the first time in program history — and finished 17-1-6, defeating Maryland 2-1 in the College Cup championship. Due to the unprecedented success of the team, Clark earned the 2013 United Soccer Coaches Division 1 Coach of the Year honor.
Before he eventually embarked upon his coaching career, Clark enjoyed a distinguished professional playing career in the Scottish League. From 1962–82, he started in more than 800 games, 696 of which were with the Aberdeen Dons. Clark helped the Dons win the 1970 Scottish Cup, the 1976 League Cup and the 1980 Premier League Championship, and additionally contributed to the Scottish squad that advanced to the finals of the 1978 World Cup.
Shortly after the end of his playing career, Clark began his 31-year collegiate coaching career in the United States — a resume that includes .676 winning percentage and a 369-150-80 record. Starting his career at Dartmouth in 1985, he registered an 82-42-13 record over his nine seasons there. Clark then went on to coach at Stanford for five seasons (1996–2000), compiling a 71-21-12 record and turning around a program that had not produced a winning record in four years.
Arriving to Notre Dame in January of 2001, Clark again faced a rebuilding task, as the Irish had suffered consecutive losing campaigns in the two seasons prior. The program has not had a losing season since. Notre Dame registered a 216-93-55 mark under the coaching and mentorship of Clark, and each of his last six squads earned a top-16 NCAA seed.
Clark also led Notre Dame to two Big East Tournament titles in 2003 and 2012, three Big East regular-season crowns in 2004, 2007 and 2008, a share of the 2013 ACC regular-season championship in the program’s first season in the league and the outright 2014 ACC Coastal Division championship title. In addition, his Irish were the No. 1 overall seeds in the 2012 and 2014 NCAA brackets.
During Clark’s Notre Dame tenure, 15 Irish players were honorees on United Soccer Coaches All-America squads. Ten conference players of the year, including 2016 ACC Offensive Player of the Year Jon Gallagher, suited up for Notre Dame under Clark, along with 30 all-conference first-team selections, 11 CoSIDA Academic All-America recipients and 27 MLS SuperDraft choices (20 since 2008). Among his most recognized players are 2006 MAC Hermann Trophy recipient Joseph Lapira and current U.S. National Team member Matt Besler.
For his dedication and commitment to the Irish men’s soccer program, the Notre Dame Monogram Club awarded Clark an honorary monogram in June 2011. He retires as Notre Dame’s all-time wins leader.