[COLLEGE WOMEN]Jerry Smith, who signed a seven-year extension that will keep him at Santa Clara for the next 10 seasons, says he was "very close" to taking the coveted women's vacancy at Notre Dame left by the departure of Randy Waldrum to the NWSL's Houston Dash.
“Notre Dame is an unbelievable institution with a great athletic department and I was their No. 1 candidate," Smith said in a conference call after the announcement of his extension with the Broncos, whom he led to the 2001 national championship. "They were very clear about that. I was on a trip out to South Bend last Wednesday and Thursday and met with all the right people out there in the President’s office and Jack Swarbrick, their AD. It’s an incredible place. I’ve always admired Notre Dame from the outside and coached there many times but to have seen the university and the athletic department from the inside was really an interesting phenomenon. We never wanted to leave Santa Clara University but Notre Dame is a very unique opportunity and it was an opportunity that was clearly afforded to me, so my family and I had to make a decision. We hunkered down on Sunday night and I can tell you that was a long and arduous process that was very stressful. Ultimately, we came to the right decision for our family. The other piece of that was I really feel like I can have a bigger impact here at Santa Clara University than I could have had possibly at Notre Dame. I want to be clear that Notre Dame did not put a contract in front of me. I also want to be clear that they would have. It was made very clear to me, so it was a very real opportunity. I’m excited about the opportunity here at Santa Clara and I’m excited about the difference I can make here for women’s soccer in our athletic department and for the university community. The best way that I can put it is even a place like Notre Dame who has, it seems like unlimited resources, couldn’t take me away from where my heart really is and my heart really is here at Santa Clara University. My family and I are happy and thankful. We’re motivated and excited about the opportunities going forward.”
Smith's wife is former U.S. women's star Brandi Chastain. They have a young son, Jaden Chastain Smith, who will be about to finish high school at the end of his new SCU contract. He says a lot has changed since he started at Santa Clara in 1987.
“My opening salary was $2,400 for the year," he said, "and I had no scholarship money. Now, there are over 330 Division I women’s soccer teams and so many of those teams are well supported by their athletic departments, fully funded with 14 scholarships, and have a full time group of staff. There’s been a major commitment because of Title IX, and other reasons, to the women’s side of athletics. Women’s soccer is one of the sports that a lot of the universities, particularly universities with a lot of resources, decided that they really wanted to go after. Part of that reason is that studies would say that girls soccer is the most popular sport in the United States for girls. There’s been a tremendous revolution there and not everything that comes out of that is good by the way."
Smith was particularly critical of the changes in recruiting.
"For example, in the good old days, we recruited seniors in high school and brought them on official visits," he said. "Now we’re recruiting freshmen and sophomores and I don’t think that’s a healthy thing. I wish we could figure out how to change that trend. There was an article in The New York Times a week or two ago that really touched upon that and it was titled something like, 'I’ve Made My Verbal Commitment and Now I’m Going to Start High School.' Women’s soccer has one of the highest transfer rates in the NCAA. None of us are proud of that and there’s nothing about that that’s positive.
"U.S. Soccer has put a tremendous amount of resources lately into the development of girls and women’s soccer. I was in a meeting in Philadelphia a few weeks ago with Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, and many key people in the girls and women’s side, including college coaches. We were talking about these additional resources and how to best use them for real development of student-athletes in our sport. It seems like we’ve come so far from where I started it’s almost hard to think about.”
Santa Clara also announced that Smith will be the executive director of the Jerry Smith Coaching for Life Academy that will open the summer of 2014. Smith will partner with the School of Education and Counseling Psychology Dean Nick Ladany. The program is focused on leadership skills training.