Maybe this last hill was just too much for Schellas Hyndman to climb.
One of the most successful college soccer coaches in the nation has just announced his retirement after a 37-year college coaching career. He spent the last five seasons trying to build a top-level men’s soccer program at Grand Canyon University.
Hyndman spent 24 years as the head coach at Southern Methodist University without having a single losing season. But after five seasons at GCU, he has managed just one winning season.
He will coach the team through the spring season, which was moved from last fall due to the pandemic, but has made his retirement plans clear before the season gets underway.
A specific reason hasn’t been given for Hyndman’s departure, but in a story posted on the GCU website, the 69-year-old says only that he “looks forward to spending more valuable time with my family after the upcoming season.”
That leaves the door open for him to return to coaching somewhere else.
It was late in Hyndman’s career when GCU took a chance, in January of 2015, that he still had enough gas left in the tank to take its soccer program to new heights on the national stage. The school had fired its coach, Petar Draksin, who had spent 28 years directing the program, and then built a new 5,000-seat, state-of-the art soccer stadium to improve its recruiting efforts.
GCU President Brian Mueller, who had decided that soccer would become a major component of the school’s athletic branding efforts, called his new hire “one of the best collegiate coaches in the history of men’s soccer” and compared him to Duke basketball’s Mike Krzyzewski, who had built that program into one of the most elite in the nation.
No one questioned Hyndman’s coaching credentials. He spent seven seasons at Eastern Illinois, taking that program to three appearances in the College Cup, and then moved on to SMU, where he led the Mustangs to 22 NCAA tournament appearances, advancing to the quarterfinals 11 times and the College Cup twice.
He also earned success at the professional level, earning Coach of the Year honors during the six years he coached FC Dallas in Major League Soccer.
But that success hasn’t transferred to the small, Christian college in west Phoenix where he has compiled a 37-47-9 overall record and has averaged just 3 1/2 conference wins per season.
He had a breakout season in 2018, when that team knocked off five top-25 teams, finished 12-8-1, and won the WAC tournament championship. But that was his only winning season; the next year ended with four wins overall and a single conference victory.
Here’s the sad part of the story: Draksin, who was fired after devoting nearly three decades to make room for Hyndman, was more successful in his last five years than Hyndman was in his first five seasons.
Draksin led the ‘Lopes to five Pacific West Conference titles in the final seven years before the program began its transition from D-II to Division I. He compiled a 52-35-8 record over the five years prior to being fired, and averaged 7 1/2 conference wins over that span.
Change doesn’t always turn out to be for the better. Maybe next time, Mueller will find his Coach K.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)