Although it’s the offseason for Roadrunners soccer, the men’s team is making big changes in preparation for the 2016 fall season.
Head coach Jeremy Tittle was promoted to his current position after serving as interim coach in 2015, where he finished 13-4-2 overall and 8-2 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Athletic Director Anthony Grant first made the announcement in February, making Tittle the seventh head coach in program history.
“The phrase that came up with Dr. Grant and others was ‘now it’s permanent,’” Tittle said. “Now I can really put my foot on the gas. What’s different about going into next season is there’s a much longer vision in plan. Not just for next season but what does it look like in three years or in five.”
Tittle has been a member of the Roadrunner community for some time now having been an assistant coach from 2009-2014. During that stint, he coached under longtime coach Ken Parsons, helping the team to a 69-41-10 record including an NCAA tournament appearance in 2011.
President Stephen Jordan and Grant have been outspoken about backing the newly named head coach. In Tittle’s press release for interim Jordan said, “Jeremy is the perfect person to lead our program through this time of transition. Furthermore, he has a proven track record as head coach.”
Grant had similar sentiments saying, “He has displayed his commitment to our department mission.”
With the athletic department in full support of Tittle, a certain level of confidence occurs.
“I was moved at the choice of words President Jordan and Dr. Grant had when the releases came out,” Tittle said. “To see them unequivocally say we want our program to do great things in lots of areas on and off the field and think you’re the guy to do it, that’s a big thing for me.”
There is an added level of respect that develops when players and coaches are afforded the time to work with each other for several years. For many of the MSU Denver players, this was evident more than ever.
“We were all pushing for coach Tittle,” junior forward Jeff Gillis said. “We all wanted him back and as soon as we heard the news, we were pretty excited. It was something that we wanted and with all the other candidates coming in, it was still a toss-up. But as players, we saw him as head coach.”
This speaks volumes in relation to the pedigree coach Parsons had, not to mention the contrast in coaching styles.
“There was a big difference. Coach Tittle as head coach is much more hands on,” junior forward Josh Belfrage said. “He did a really good job of changing the culture on our team and making an atmosphere one that everybody wanted to be around.”
Surrounding players with an atmosphere where camaraderie exists is essential to a successful program. When players are able to have a good relationship with each other and coaches on and off the field, it provides another reason for them to play for one another. Because the Roadrunners will predominantly be made up of upperclassmen heading into the fall season, that bond will be the straw that holds them together.
“I could see there’s a really great connection in our group,” Tittle said. “It wasn’t just between myself and players but also between player and player. Our coaching staff has done a good job providing the quality environment that we wanted to create and the product we ended up with is A-plus.”
The leadership from the coaching staff and players will have to be prominent with MSU Denver on the brink of being the RMAC’s best. Last season the Roadrunners finished just five games behind conference champ Colorado Mines. Although the Roadrunners lost to Fort Lewis in the semifinals, Tittle still believes he has the necessary parts to piece together an NCAA tournament run.
“In terms of leadership, we make a considered effort to learn and grow in that area as we do any others,” Tittle said. “We just recently added Jeff Gillis to be the third captain to go along with Dustin Berg [junior midfielder] and Josh Belfrage.”
The 2016 season doesn’t begin until August but you can catch the Roadrunners in action during their spring slate exhibition games.
Tittle will lead his team against matchups against UCCS April 16 at The Regency Athletic Complex and Air Force April 23 in Colorado Springs to wrap up the spring schedule.
Tittle career tracker:
» MSU Denver interim coach: 2014-15
» MSU Denver Asst. coach: 2009-14
» Littleton Soccer Club Senior Director of Coaching: 2002-09
» West Virginia interim coach: 2001
» Lees-McRae College (N.C.): 7 seasons including earning conference coach of the year
» Coached multiple pro players including former Roadrunner and Rapids player Steven Emory