Detchon leaves as Kenyon's most successful soccer coach
W hen Jack Detchon arrived on campus in August 1994, he knew he had some pretty large shoes to fill as the new head coach of the highly successful men's soccer program.
It was a program that had produced thirty winning campaigns in the forty-seven years before Detchon's arrival, and a program that had progressed to the ranks of the nation's perennial small-college powers. And in the four years that Detchon dedicated himself to continuing Kenyon's tradition, he not only filled the shoes, he broke out the toes.
In the time it takes many coaches just to get things headed in the right direction, Detchon not only steered the Lords on a forward path but also hit the accelerator. His teams won two championships in the rugged North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and finished as runner-up twice. The Lords also advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III national championship tournament all four years and enjoyed their most successful showing ever in 1996 when Kenyon finished the season as the national runner-up.
So, when Detchon returned to his native England in December to begin a well-deserved retirement, he went back satisfied that he accomplished the job he set out to do at the College. And he should: he is now Kenyon's most successful coach in the fifty-one year history of the soccer program, with an outstanding 63-11-3 record.
"I'm very pleased with my four years at the College," says Detchon. "It justifies Kenyon's decision to bring me from England four years ago. I came here with some top-heavy credentials and I was ready to prove that I could do the job I was hired to do."
Those credentials included a lengthy coaching history in the professional English Football Association and appointment as the head coach of England's national 18-Under team, which competed for the European Nations Trophy and the China Youth Cup. He also coached for a year with a football club in Kuwait.
Even with that impressive past to his credit, he wanted to coach on the collegiate level in the United States, and he found the opening when his friend and predecessor at the College, Fran O'Leary, decided to leave the Lords to become head coach at Division I Dartmouth College. O'Leary, who compiled a 32-4-4 record in only two years at Kenyon, was the first coach to take the College to the Final Four, in 1993.
"I came into a good situation," says Detchon. "Kenyon's previous coaches, Mike Pilger and Fran O'Leary, elevated the program to a national level, and it was my job not to maintain that but to progress. We advanced to the national championship game last year, and we've been ranked in the top ten at the end of the season for three straight years now.
"I think the program has reached the level now that the College is expected to have very good players. We're also expected to do well every year in the national tournament."
Detchon said his successor will now find requests for competition coming in from top-ranked programs from every corner of the country. Programs like 1997 national champion Wheaton College of Illinois want Kenyon on their regular-season schedules.
"We need to play the best to be the best," says Detchon. "You need to extend yourself if you're going to do well in the national tournament; you've got to play very good teams. That's why we continue to play the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) teams like Malone College, Tiffin University, and the University of Rio Grande. They've been successful at recruiting very good foreign players and we always know we're in for good competition against those teams."
In Detchon's time at Kenyon, the Lords have played some of the best teams in the nation on a consistent basis. In addition to the NAIA teams, the Lords have also faced the best from Division III, including NCAC foe Ohio Wesleyan University.
And the Lords have continued to win against most challengers. Detchon credits that to the fact that the program now attracts talented players on an annual basis. Those student-athletes have had a definite impact on the program, setting or tying seventeen single-game, single-season, and career, individual, or team records in Detchon's four years alone.
Those players have also consistently notched the victories. The 1997 Lords produced a 15-3-0 record, won the NCAC championship for the second consecutive year, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the eighth straight season. Kenyon has averaged nearly sixteen wins per year during Detchon's tenure and fifteen wins per season for the last ten years. Detchon departs with memories of being part of some of the most thrilling games in Lords history, including the 2-1, four-overtime loss to the College of New Jersey in the 1996 NCAA championship contest.
"I think I shall remember the entire playoff series from that season for a long time," says Detchon. "The victories we had against Wittenberg, Wilmington, Ithaca, and Chicago were outstanding. We played some wonderfully mature, clever, and patient soccer in those games. And I shall remember our always closely fought games against Ohio Wesleyan, a great program with a great coach."
Detchon and his wife, Vicki, departed Gambier in time to be home in Chesterfield, England, to spend Christmas with their family. Now, he's not sure what the future will present.
"I can retire from everything if I want to," says Detchon. "If I were to be offered some sort of assistant's position in soccer back home, I might think about it. But right now I know there is a lot of golf to be played. You can't play golf in heaven, or in hell, so I've got to get it done while I'm here."
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