Temple entered its American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal match on Nov. 10 with the possibility of extending one of two streaks.
With a win, Temple would have recorded its third 10-win season in a row and the fifth since finishing 9-10 in 2011.
Instead, the Owls (9-8-1, 4-3 The American) lost, 4-0, to eventual conference champion Southern Methodist in Dallas and extended their losing streak in conference tournament games to eight.
Five days after the Owls’ loss to the Mustangs, the university announced it would not renew coach David MacWilliams’ contract. He compiled a 140-164-34 record during his 18-year tenure. MacWilliams’ assistant coaches also will not be retained, he said.
Athletic Director Pat Kraft said he is looking for “a fresh voice leading us forward” in a university release. A national search has begun for a new coach.
“They said they wanted to move in a different direction,” MacWilliams said.
“It was a surprise to me and kind of a shock,” he added. “So trying to deal with all that…it’s been a tough couple of weeks.”
Senior midfielder and forward Joonas Jokinen said the team learned MacWilliams had goals to meet for the season that could result in his tenure ending if not met.
“We had an idea, but we weren’t exactly sure what those expectations were for the season,” Jokinen said. “When we made the conference tournament, we assumed that was what was basically asked of him, so we were a little bit surprised in the end.”
MacWilliams had his share of success at Temple. He won 10 games or more in seven seasons, including the 2015 campaign. After Temple started with a 4-0-1 record, the Owls earned their first national ranking in 18 years at No. 23 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. The team peaked at No. 17 before a loss to Cincinnati started a stretch of going 0-3-1.
Two years prior, in Temple’s first season in The American, the Owls went 10-4-4 and 3-1-4 in the league to place fourth, despite being picked to finish last in the preseason poll. MacWilliams and his staff won the Coaching Staff of the Year.
“You’re coming into a new conference with a lot of teams from the Big East that knew each other,” said Brian Clarhaut, who assistant coached from 2012-15 and is now the coach for Nyköping BIS, a Division I professional team in Sweden. “They didn’t know really about us, and we had some good older players that were there. It was a good accomplishment. We hoped to move forward with that.”
Sandwiched between the 2013 and 2015 seasons, however, was a 2-14-2 finish in 2014. MacWilliams called it “one of my toughest years as coach.”
MacWilliams’ tenure started in 2000, when the program recorded its longest losing streak ever at 11 games. By 2003 and 2004, Temple had won double-digit games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1986 and 1987.
“I think obviously when I came to the program, it was tough,” he said. “We did our best under the circumstances and the budget restraints.”
Once Temple joined The American in 2013, it ranked near the bottom of the conference in spending, MacWilliams said. In 2015, Temple spent $2,622,507 on men’s sports excluding football and basketball, according to the most recent data from the United States Department of Education. Data was not available for UConn, but the other six schools in The American that sponsor men’s soccer spent more than $3 million.
After 2004, the Owls missed the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in the next three seasons, including 2006, when they lost 14 games, got shutout a program-record 10 times and scored the fewest goals in a single season in school history.
They rebounded in 2008 to place second in the regular-season standings with the help of J.T. Noone, the Owls’ first All-American since 1986.
MacWilliams also coached seven second-team players in The American, including freshman forward Alan Camacho Soto and sophomore forward Thibault Candia.
“I think there was a lot of special highlights that we’ve had throughout the course of my career there,” MacWilliams said. “Just basically, the day-to-day interaction with student-athletes, teaching the game or trying to educate players on the game and just in general trying to shape them as young men.”
MacWilliams wants to get back into college coaching, but no other schools had expressed interest as of Thursday.
He feels the program is in “pretty good shape” with returning players. He had four players committed to play next season, including Santiago Majewski, a senior midfielder from Torrey Pines High School in San Diego.
He isn’t sure if those players will still come to Temple now that he won’t be there.
“We had a good nucleus,” he said. “I think we were building for the future and coming up.”