Roster changes are expected in every sport, but it seems that University of Dayton men’s soccer, led by head coach Dennis Currier, has experienced more than the usual amount of turnover between last season and the current one.
From the start of the 2018 season to the beginning of the 2019 season, 11 players have left the Dayton men’s soccer team, not including the two seniors that graduated after the 2018 season. That accounts for about 35% of UD’s total roster, and 39% of their underclassmen.
According to transfer statistics provided by the NCAA, 20.2% of all men’s soccer players transfered last year.
The University of Dayton does not release information about player departures, but roster information is readily available online.
The players left for various reasons, but Flyer News has learned that many of the departures are due to players’ unhappiness with the team’s coaching staff and culture.
“Dayton is known for this community aspect,” a former player who left the team last fall said. The player asked that his name not be used in this article. “[Currier] always talks about needing to do things together, but the program is built in a way where it’s almost exactly the opposite.”
Currier’s time at Dayton has been largely successful on the field. In his 14 previous seasons at UD, men’s soccer has won three Atlantic-10 conference championships. Currier credits a lot of his success to the team’s culture.
“I approach this program in a holistic way with the priorities academics, soccer and community outreach,” Currier said. “I want to set these young men up for life, for their entire career. I set standards high because I truly believe in the long run they will respect the program and be more prepared for the real world. It’s that ‘do-right’ philosophy: you do what’s right, you show people that you care, and you do it to the best of your ability everyday.”
To put it in the simplest terms, the coaches had favorites,” the unnamed player said. “These specific players were always favored no matter what.”
Some of the departed players said that despite Currier’s emphasis on the program’s culture, he has very few personal relationships with some players.
“I’d never had a conversation with coach Currier until the end of fall my freshman year,” the unnamed player said. “He never gave you any criticism, good or bad, on the field. There was no relationship with players on the field, and if you saw him in passing, it was maybe a ‘hello.’”
Some former players said their relationships with Currier had largely to do with whether or not they were one of his favored players.
“To put it in the simplest terms, the coaches had favorites,” the unnamed player said. “These specific players were always favored no matter what.”
Saikou Ceesay, another former player who left the team last year, even said he was treated well until he “started complaining for the others.”
In every organization you can find disgruntled employees, that’s not an overall indicator of the culture.” – Coach Currier
Ceesay went on to claim that, despite the team’s culture of togetherness, Currier and the coaching staff sometimes sought to separate and isolate certain players.
“Part of the coaches’ routine was to separate us at any chance they had,” Ceesay said. “They even sometimes advised us not to hang out with certain players because they were less talented and only came to college to party, even though this wasn’t the case.”
Currier denied having favorites.
“The student-athletes are the backbone of our program and there’s nothing more satisfying than building these relationships with them,” Currier said. “In every organization you can find disgruntled employees, that’s not an overall indicator of the culture.”
Another complaint from former players was that some of them would be forced to sit in the stands during home games.
“The coaches would roster like 20 or 21 players, and we had like 32 players on the team,” the unnamed player said. “So 11 of us just sat in the stands for home games.”
“They were healthy players that could at least be on the bench supporting each other like other colleges were doing,” Ceesay said.
While Currier said that he didn’t know if this was a common practice, he did explain his reasoning behind it.
“While not being treated any differently within the program, our guys on the bench have to know they have a chance to play,” Currier said. “That creates a different level of focus that is needed at this level. It’s about making tough decisions, and that might not always meet specific student-athletes’ wants.”
The unnamed player said he had met with a few different university officials; however, the meetings did not have the desired effect.
“The only answer I have gotten in response to any complaints was ‘that’s the program, that’s just how it is,’” the unnamed player said. “When I met with a university official, I was told the meeting would be confidential, and they immediately went to Currier.”
Senior Associate Athletics Director Angie Petrovic said the university would not comment on individual player complaints or private meetings.
I left the team because it didn’t feel like a team,” Ceesay said.
Currier also pointed to a few testimonials from former players, including one with 2014 graduate John Howe, which Currier said described him “to a T.”
“Coach Currier is a little mysterious,” Howe said. “At the end of the day coach loves winners… he wants you to come in and give it everything you have.”
This season on the field, the Flyers have picked up steam after a slow start to the season, even upsetting 20th-ranked West Virginia on Sept. 21.
Despite the team’s success, the culture surrounding Dayton’s men’s soccer program is divisive enough that it has caused multiple players to leave in the last season.
“I left the team because it didn’t feel like a team,” Ceesay said.
Only time will tell whether this divide will catch up with the program’s on-field performance.