The school year is over. The baseball team is the only Creighton sports team left standing. But CU athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, associate athletic director Mark Burgers, and assistant athletic director for external operations Kevin Sarver have quite a workload to deal with. Fresh off replacing coaching legend Dana Altman one month ago, those three CU officials must find someone to take over Bob Warming’s Bluejays soccer program.
“Coach Warming has been a great asset to Creighton Athletics,” Burgers said. “His feat of making the NCAA Tournament for 17 straight years is one of the most amazing accomplishments in NCAA history — especially given the nature of soccer, knowing that a bounce of a ball one way or another can dictate the result of a game.”
Many Jays fans were saddened to learn of Warming’s departure from the Hilltop, but what he built and what he leaves at CU puts the administration in a great position to find a top-tier coach.
“Creighton has one of the best college soccer facilities in the country, one of the best AD’s, and has the necessary resources to win,” Burgers said. “We have shown that we are competitive at the national level. There is already a very qualified pool of candidates — both on campus and across the nation — for the job and we will move forward searching for an individual that has high character and embodies the same qualities of Creighton and Creighton Athletics.”
Burgers said the search to replace Warming began right as news broke of his departure. He added that there are a number of qualified candidates out there, from phenomenal club coaches to current college and head coaches, but that location is a starting point for their search.
“It is similar to recruiting; you start in Omaha and work out. Soccer isn’t quite as geographically driven as other sports, but you always start close to home and move outward. We have some talented assistant coaches at Creighton currently and we have had a ton of interest in the position nationwide,” Burgers said.
“When you are looking to replace a head coach, you will be looking for an individual with either proven success as a head coach or as an assistant that succeeded with what they had. Coach Warming’s best qualities are his passion for the game and his vision; as a result, he has a unique ability to build programs — in all areas — and he represents the university very well. With this in mind, we are currently looking for an individual with proven ability in not only running a team, but a program,” Burgers said.
One of the more popular names being thrown around by Creighton soccer fans is former CU coach Bret Simon, currently at Stanford.
“Bret would obviously be a top choice for many programs across the nation, as he has had success here at Creighton in the past and currently at Stanford. His Stanford teams have made multiple NCAA tournament appearances including a College Cup,” Burgers said. “Unfortunately for us, Bret has recently signed a contract extension with Stanford and his wife, Creighton basketball Hall of Famer Pam Gradoville, has an amazing job with a top employer in California. Although Bret was definitely on our list, we have a number of candidates that we are making contact with.”
Many Jays fans also wonder aloud if current Creighton assistants Jason Mims and Johnny Torres would be considered for the spot.
“I can tell you that both Jason and Johnny are on our list of candidates. Jason has been regarded as one of the top assistant coaches for years, and has proven himself as one of the best assistant coaches in the country while here at Creighton,” Burgers said. “Johnny is the ‘Heisman’ of Creighton soccer and is probably the most storied athlete in the history of our program. He’s also a high-character individual who has a passion for soccer.”
But what’s the right answer? Burgers likens it to creating a research paper, one that’s due soon.
“Fortunately, ‘Sarv’ is continually researching programs and their coaching situations, so we don’t have to start at square one. It is like writing a paper — it is a lot easier when someone hands you all of your resources. Combine that with Bruce’s ability to judge character, and I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
So what exactly is the timeline? Burgers says if pressed to answer, he would say the Jays will have Warming’s successor within two weeks.
“This is a bit different than the basketball situation. With the spring session over, many of the players are off campus and there is less of a push to find a replacement right away. Although the preseason will be fast approaching, we still have a little time to work with our candidates.
“Often you will hear that a potential candidate will ask to talk to their family and take some time to think about the opportunity, and you want to give them that right and be as accommodating as possible. We don’t want to ruffle any feathers in the process either, as we may be approaching some of these individuals’ in the future about openings on games.”
In the end, Burgers and Sarver will help prepare Rasmussen for his work with the independent selection committee, comprised of various leaders from campus. But, as Burgers points out, the ultimate decision rests with someone he says has a great knack for hiring leaders.
“Bruce has a great ability to find talent, and he is also extremely well-connected and admired throughout the NCAA ranks. That makes it easier to go through a process such as this,” he said. “Plus, coaches really want to work for a person with character like Bruce’s, so it makes Creighton a pretty easy sell.”
Stay with White and Blue Review for all of the latest updates on the coaching search.