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Clemson Soccer Coach I.M. Ibrahim with his two national championship trophies.
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Coach I's Blog

 

Coach I. M. Ibrahim

June 23, 1941 to July 12, 2008

        

 

Brief Bio:  Dr. I. M. Ibrahim, otherwise known as "e;Coach I,"e; was the head soccer coach at Clemson University from 1967-1994 and was founder of the program.  "e;The Father of Clemson Soccer"e; coached Clemson to two NCAA Division I Soccer Championships in 1984 and 1987.  His overall career record was 388-100-31 and he retired in 1994 as the nation's fifth winningest soccer coach.  He coached 16 Tigers who earned 24 All-American honors.  Fifty-one Tigers were named to the All-ACC first-team 92 times.  He coached three U. S. Olympians including Bruce Murray, receipient of soccer's prestigious Herrmann Award.  There were also eight Clemson players who were named ACC Players-of-the-Year 12 times.  His Clemson teams made 17 NCAA appearances and 6 NCAA Final Four appearances.  During his tenure, Clemson Soccer finished in the Top 20 in the nation for 18 seasons.  He coached Clemson Soccer to 11 ACC Championships and 13 regular season titles.  Dr. Ibrahim earned his undergraduate degree from Shorter College, his Master's Degree from Clemson University, and concluded his education with a Ph.D. in Chemisty from Clemson University in 1970.  His is an inductee into the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Shorter College Athletic Hall of Fame, and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.  He was honored by South Carolina Governor Dick Riley with theOrder of the Palmettoin February, 1985.  In 1974, Coach Ibrahim founded The Tiger Sports Shop, Inc. and served as its president from 1974 to 2008.  His hobbies include golf, music, wine, and sports car collecting.  The recollections contained below were written this year before his sudden death while playing golf at Cross Creek Plantation on July 12, 2008. 

 

June 30, 2008

Colonel Rick Robbins

Recently, a friend of mine who has a birth date similar to mine, his friend and my wife all celebrated our birthdays at a restaurant in Greenville.  By the way, the birthdays seem to be coming quickly these days, but I am told it is better than the alternative.  As we were finishing dinner, we noticed a young lady having a birthday celebration herself at an adjoining table.  We wished her a happy birthday, as she was celebrating her twenty-first. A very nice lady (her mother) recognized me and came over and started talking about Clemson.  Her name is Aline Creus Kilgore, a student and cheerleader at Clemson in the mid-seventies.  The conversation quickly turned to a person who had a big influence on her and on me.  The person was Colonel Rick Robbins, and he was the first contact I had with anyone in the athletic department.  He had hired me to tutor all of the football players in the subject of Chemistry, while I was still a student at Clemson, before I became the first soccer coach here.   I tutored Chemistry students for many years, and quite successfully I might add. 

I have very fond memories of Colonel Robbins.  In my mind, he was a typical army colonel, gruff, abrupt and very "e;military."e;  He scared everyone around him with his sharp tongue; everyone, that is, except me.  Underneath that facade was a kind, caring and understanding person.  He helped me a lot during my early years at Clemson, as he provided me with employment as a tutor, as well as loaned me money to help put a down payment on the first house I ever bought.  I paid him back quickly, but I am very grateful to him for the help, even now, forty years later.

Colonel Robbins cared a lot about the athletes who were his responsibility to make sure they attended classes and passed their coursework.  He stayed on top of everyone under his care, and bullied them until they were convinced that his way was the only way.  I am sure those who remember him know that he was the kind man I have described above.  Thanks to him, many athletes, primarily football and basketball players, made it through many difficult courses that some were ill suited for.  I will toast Colonel Robbins on behalf of all the athletes that owe him a great debt.

One vivid memory I have of Colonel Robbins was him sitting at his desk with a big poster above on the wall above that said, "e;Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…"e;  I will never forget that poster, and the old English font in which it was written.  That was Colonel Rick Robbins the way I remember him.

I still remember to this day the shocking news that my friend and benefactor, Colonel Robbins, had passed away.  He was taken away from us prematurely; but his memory lives on in many hearts and minds, and especially mine.  He was a legend who helped Clemson athletics to greatness. 

Thank you Colonel Rick Robbins for all that you have done for me.

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

June 20, 2008

Some fond memories of cheerleaders at soccer games.

As everyone who follows soccer knows, cheerleaders aren’t seen on the sidelines of soccer games.  The game is quite fluent with nonstop action, and the cheerleaders don’t really have any times they can have the stage to be able to cheer.  This brings me to a very amusing memory of cheerleaders at soccer games.

We hosted the 1987 national championship final at Clemson, a game we won, and it earned us our second national championship.  Some of the guys in the athletic department came up with the idea that cheerleaders needed to be there so that they could perform, and of course I objected that this isn’t done in soccer games.  I guess they didn’t want to offend me, so they planned their cheerleading episode for halftime, hid the cheerleaders in one of the tunnels, and when my team and I left the field, they brought them on, they cheered and left before we came back out of our locker rooms.  I was not aware what had happened, until days later when a friend of mine brought me a bunch of pictures, still framed and hanging in my office, and one showed the cheerleaders; a lovely group of young coeds cheering on MY field at halftime of the national championship game. 

Needless to say, I croaked….we had won a national championship and my administrators had their cheerleaders on MY field.  Oh well, who says that we cannot change soccer traditions.  I do recall, as I am writing this, that cheerleaders did come to some games later on, and mainly to support the team, which was really nice.  They didn’t cheer during the game, and I don’t really know what they did during the halftimes…I was too busy getting the team ready for the second half.

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

June 19, 2008

Foreign Recruiting

In this issue, I want to reflect on my early recruiting trips to Guyana, Jamaica and Nigeria; which were the reason great players like Clyde Browne and others became Clemson Tigers, and the Clemson soccer team inspired awe in the hearts of opponents on the collegiate scene. 

In the early days of the 70's, having tasted a little success recruiting at the junior college level and finding Miami Dade South soccer players like Henry Abadi, Ron Giesbers and  Italo Yanuzelli; I also met a young goalkeeper, Michael Hampton if I remember the name correctly, who was recruited by Clemson but wound up playing his collegiate soccer at Brown University.  He told me about Clyde Browne when I was recruiting him; I contacted Clyde in Guyana and he came to Clemson.  We did well his freshman year, made the NCAA playoffs, won the first round and lost to Howard in the second round.  Clyde convinced me to travel to Guyana with him to see other players.  The whole idea was to find an English speaking country that did not have professional soccer, find some deserving students that would be eligible to be admitted at Clemson to help make Clemson a top soccer program.  From those players I recruited to Clemson after my first trip there came others, and they had successful careers at Clemson, both as soccer athletes and many as very good students.

In the meantime, our nemesis of those days was Howard University, whose coach was from Trinidad, and he recruited well there and also in Africa. I had visited Jamaica with the team on a three game tour in the early seventies had recruited excellent players; but they did not compete successfully with the Nigerians of Howard.  One of those transferred to Clemson, pointed me in the right direction, and off I went to try and find the talent in Nigeria. 

I can tell many stories about the culture that I encountered there.  It really was an eye opener.  It was a very large country, some 30 times to 40 bigger than Jamaica or Guyana…a population somewhere near 80 million, with great soccer players who were also great athletes.  They were not professionals, they were from an ex-British colony, spoke English well, and had academic qualifications for Clemson’s rigid admission standards.  I remember our 1976 final four team in Philadelphia with two full lineups as good as any other team in the country.  We had Bill McLellan’s blessings to bring on the best players we could, and many still bring memories to Clemson fans that I meet from time to time…they all mention Christian Nwokocha, his brother Nnamdi Nwokocha, Damian Ogonsuyi, Obed Ariri and Donald Igwebuike.  Actually there were many more, all very gifted, from a country that was destined to become a soccer power in years to come. 

My personal observations on these recruiting trips were interesting.

Guyana, the first country I visited, was a third world country making tremendous progress.  I was invited to coach their national team when I was there.  I was the only person who arrived to practice on time, along with Clyde Browne who also was a member of their national squad.  After waiting for 45 minutes, a few more players showed up, and the big stars made their appearances an hour or more late.  That was the custom.

One of my fond memories was going to the Guyanese parliament and meeting with the minister of education and the prime minister.  I introduced myself as Dr. Ibrahim; as coach Ibrahim meant nothing to them.  But my Ph.D. from Clemson was impressive to them and opened the door for me to meet them.

I went to Guyana twice in my life and enjoyed meeting some very nice people.  I remember my trip to New Amsterdam using the Ferry to cross the river, and having a party at Gordon and Mark Alphonso's home; eating fried iguana (tasted like chicken) and drinking some scotch with Gordon’s older brother.  That made the iguana taste a bit better going down.  I also remember the beautiful gardens they had in Georgetown, and the old buildings that were totally made out of wood.  One particular church stands in my mind.  It was a big white wooden structure with paint peeling in places that was set in the midst of beautiful trees with red fine flowers that reminded me of the climate and trees I grew up with in Israel.

Jamaica was very similar to Guyana in climate. I was there several times, never in the northern section where all the tourist resorts are, but always around Kingston, the capital city. 

Nigeria on the other hand was so different.  Lots of chaos met me at the airport both times I was there, people wanting to help me with my bags, fighting each other off and trying to grab my bags…I would not let them; I knew I couldn't run as fast as they could to keep up with them.  Lagos, where I was centrally located both times I was there, was a bustling city with lots of traffic, cars driving on sidewalks, no common courtesy among  drivers and lots of fussing and hot muggy weather.  I remember the first time I was staying in a small hotel and someone came and asked me in the morning what I wanted to eat for lunch.  I said chicken.  A few minutes later, I saw that same person was chasing a chicken down the street, grabbed it, and I assume that was my lunch that day.  I flew to the interior to Enugu and found several of my very gifted soccer players there; but I had someone following everywhere, spying on me, to make sure I didn't steal their natural resources.  I would sit by the pool and look around, and that mysterious person with a big wide hat would slowly raise his head, look to make sure I was still there, and then quickly lower it again. 

I remember many other things not fit for publication.  Nigeria had oil and national wealth in that respect, but that was not being channeled into a good infrastructure at that time.  And, we all know about the Nigerian scams on the internet. And, as I was leaving Nigeria the very last time I went there, I was told by someone in the airport that I was not allowed to  take any of their money out of the country, but he cleverly showed me the store in the airport that would gladly exchange some goods for that money.  I wondered how much commission he got.  I still look at the heavy ebony statue I bought and carried on my lap for many hours as the souvenir of that event and that trip.  I truly enjoyed coaching my Nigerian soccer players, but there were times when they got themselves in trouble which they had to dig themselves out of, as it was hard for them to adapt to our culture.  I have many stories I can tell, but for the time being, I will simply say it was a great trip…and I enjoyed it.

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

May 27, 2008

 

Assistant Coaches

 

It occurred to me this morning that the lazy days of summer must be upon me, as I have not posted any new entries since April, over a month ago.  I took a few days off and spent them in, where I met my former assistant Bob Winch, and we played golf together as we used to do in the good old days.  Bob, who is now the head women's soccer coach at the Citadel, is still an excellent golfer (compared to me) and better still, he is a very dear friend of mine.  Bob and I hit the ball, rode in the same golf cart and spoke of his days at Clemson.  He was a great assistant, and I have had many great assistants who have gone on to better careers after their days at Clemson.

I didn't have much success with assistant coaches for the first two years when I started hiring them in 1980.  I think soccer assistants were impatient and either wanted me to quit so they could have my job, or thought they knew it all…which is a common problem in soccer.  Everyone associated with soccer or who has a kid playing knows all about the sport.  I coached a youth soccer club I had started when I was still at Clemson after my retirement, and the parents asked serious tactical questions when their sons playing for me were only 10 years old.  They barely knew how to put a touch on the ball, but they were worried about much more.  Of course, soccer players in my final year knew everything and were not shy about telling me.  It amazes me that in other sports, coaches always talk to retired colleagues and ask for advice, as in football and basketball for example.  Yet in soccer, younger coaches seem to be content in their own worlds.  I remember in my final year or two, one of my assistants being frustrated because I would not defend like the Italian club Milan; after all he saw them play in person and I hadn't, perhaps making him that much more knowledgeable.  When I was younger, I spent hours reading soccer books about strategies, watching as many films or games I could get my hands onto, and trying to learn from others.  We had coaches lecturing at national conventions and I was a sponge.  There was so much to learn, as each and every coach had his own experiences to share and I loved listening. 

 

Bob Winch did ask me several times to come and do a clinic at his soccer camps when he was at.  I never did, as the timing was tough andis too hot for older men during the summers.  Of course, he was a close assistant and heard just about everything I had to say preparing for games in his years here. 

My good luck with assistant coaches (other than fifth year students who helped me a lot) started with Greg Andrulis.  Greg was a superb assistant, and then went on the coach, the Columbus Crew and George Mason.  I wish him the best always.  He was a close friend and a unique human being.  He certainly helped that 1984 team achieve its potential as did Mo Tinsley, a fifth year student who helped with his experience and his very sharp mind. 

A volunteer assistant in 1985, Tony Stevens, comes to mind. He was strictly a soccer person, but couldn't land a job at Clemson as he was not qualified to be a graduate assistant, but he certainly knew soccer well, had helped in the Clemson Soccer Camps, and certainly had a pair of excellent eyes. He proved to be loyal to me for years to come, as he left Clemson to find employment as a youth coach elsewhere.  I certainly do miss him.

John Rootes came in 1986, and along with Shawn Cartmill, had a big hand in the success of the 1987 team.  John was very smart, had excellent people skills and went on to become a national champion at a Division II school.  The chemistry he helped build in 1987 along with Cartmill proved that a team that started as many as 5 freshmen could indeed win a national championship.  I don't hear much from John these days but I do know he just changed jobs and is still coaching soccer.

1988 brought Greg Hooks who is now head coach at USC Upstate and has had his share of success there. Greg was a steady influence on the young men at Clemson and helped win the 1990 regular season championship.  Then came Bob Winch, who went onwhen the opportunity came.

1993 and 1994 brought me two assistants that I had a hard time working with.  The pool of eligible students that would qualify for the graduate assistantships offered by Clemson was lean those years, and I have no fond memories to relate of these assistants.  Other schools were hiring full-time assistants to their staffs, Clemson preferred their ways.  I often wondered how well the teams of the 70's did, when there really were no true assistants for most of those years.  One year, after dismissing one of my assistants from his duties, my athletic director told me that I did much better without a full time assistant.  The superb assistants for the '83 to '92 teams were definitely an exception. I might add that until 1979, we never did truly have an assistant coach at Clemson.

 

Dr. I.M. Ibrahim

 

 

 

A Surprise Visit

I had a surprise visit with Maxwell Headley this afternoon.

Out of the clear blue sky, thirty years later, I see a face from the past that has not changed much. Lean, trim and fit, Maxwell Headly who graduated in 1978 stood in front of me, big smile on his face, full of enthusiasm as he always was, and we proceeded to share memories and stories for the next hour or so.

Maxwell, known as "e;Maxie"e; to his teammates and fans, was a student fromwho I recruited in 1975. He was quite impressive when I attended a game inand saw him make a fabulous save on a shot headed for the upper right corner of the goal. He did the same as a Clemson goalkeeper against Howard in a game we lost 1:0.

What stood out from this meeting is not what he and I both remembered as player/coach. He came to tell me in person how much he appreciated what I had done to recruit him to come to our University; and the maturity he gained as a student here. He said he took many of the lessons he learned here and passed them on to others in his years away from Clemson. He lives in neighboringnow, and makes a good living in business with a company that manufactures mattresses, bath items, towels, etc...

You have no idea how proud I was to see this man, and to listen to him speaking about his days at Clemson. We won many games together, but he won the game of life. His is absolutely someone to be very proud of, and he has matured so well.

He and I spoke of the players of the time; Clyde Watson, Clyde "e;Farmer"e; Browne, Alfred Morrison, George Hyles, Gordon and Mark Alphonso, Dennis Carrington, Woolley Ford, Eric Smith, Wendell Manifold, Ralston Moore, Douglas Scott, Charles Headlam, Ludlow Lawson, Kenneth George. I am sure I am missing someone we mentioned, but it was a very brief hour that we had to talk and remember the good old times. How beautiful were those days...and to remember what our goals were: to win a national championship, to help deserving young athletes get an education (an opportunity afforded to me through the Rotary Club of Georgia)....and to remember the young men who went to Clemson, got their degrees and became a successful group in their lives after their college days. All this was accomplished despite the early morning runs, the stadium steps, and the hills.

And interestingly, I visited my new dentist this morning to try and remove some pain I had in my mouth due to some inflammation in one of my teeth. Dr. James J. Lynn, who has taken over the practice of my late friend Peter S. Mowlajko, began our meeting by telling me a story....he was a student at Erskine College back in the sixties when I used to go there and referee games for Harry Stille, the soccer coach at Erskine. He told me he had overheard me telling Mr. Stille that I was going to build a program at Clemson and win a national championship. What a memory from 40 years ago, and what an impression I must have left with this man. He said I was full of confidence and enthusiasm and he remembered those words to this day. I don't doubt that I said them either.

It is thanks to all those players who played for Clemson and their determination to succeed that these goals were achieved. Only one or two of my later teams disappointed me with their determination to succeed...but I am extremely grateful for those earlier pioneers of Clemson Soccer.

I now will be looking forward to seeing which of my players will descend upon Clemson and surprise me with the next visit. I have been very fortunate to have coached such great people at this wonderful university. I will continue to try and relate my stories about them.

Go Tigers !!!

 

 

Guest Blog by Charles Mitchell III

(The following is an e-mail correspondence that I recently received from a former soccer player, Charles Mitchell. It touched me deeply, and with his permission, I am sharing it with you.) 

Hey Coach,

  

I have wanted to write you for a while but have just been so busy.  I don't think I have seen you since the Game I refereed in Clemson a couple of years ago.  But seeing you did spur me to want to write you.  Don't worry--this is a good and hopefully fun letter. Sorry it has taken so long to write.  This letter is a bit jumbled, but it is late at night and I am writing off the cuff.  So many memories pop into my head I want to try and recapture them as much as possible.

 

I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful time I had with Clemson Soccer.  It spans more than six years prior to attending Clemson as a student.  I looked forward very much each summer as a kid to attending Clemson Soccer Camp.  Hearing the stories of the Croc-a-potimos was always fun.  Reading your blog, I remember the names of the early Clemson players, for many of them were summer counselors at camp.  I enjoyed the afternoon trips to the Tiger Sports Shop.  Also memories of going to the “bank”.  I remember going to your house for swimming and also eating watermelon on some of the afternoon sessions.  I still think it is funny that I am on the front of one of the tiger camp leaflets standing in the background behind you.  I thought that was so cool, I still have that saved somewhere.  I am also on the inside of the pamphlet eating watermelonJ  I remember the Etonic shoe ads and the camp sessions we had discussing the various types of cleats and shin guards.  I remember the meal tickets and going to the canteen.  You really put together a great camp.  I attended many soccer camps but Clemson was always my favorite.  It was also a neat memory seeing you drive in with all the cool sports cars and occasionally giving the talks about them. Also I remember the mile long walks to the field, and always racing to see who could be the first down to the field or the first back for lunch.  Getting back to the dorms from the afternoon sessions and starting to get excited about playing the games at night.  The last year I attended camp, you were a bit short on staff and I remember you discussing with the staff (most of who I knew) that since I had attended so much that I could help by being a counselor that year.  That was a treat.

 

It was also a treat when Greg and you invited me to play soccer at Clemson.  I had missed the previous soccer camp because I was playing for a team inand would not be back in the states in time to attend camp but I was so excited to be a part of the Clemson tradition.  I very much enjoyed practice and being part of the team.  I certainly had some good players to learn from my freshman year; Eric,, Bruce, Dick, etc.  But what was also great was to get to work the soccer camps and help be a part of what I had enjoyed so much as a younger kid.  It was just as much fun getting ready to start the camp, getting the soccer balls inflated, helping the kids get moved into the dorms.  Helping to pass on the Clemson soccer traditions that I had experienced as a kid.  Also getting to drive some of your cars to the airport to pick up and drop off campers. Getting to talk with the campers during the rides about how great Clemson is. I still remember riding to the airport with Torres when I was a camper and him telling me soccer stories about Clemson. And now I was taking groups of kids over to the Tiger Sports Shop to shop.  And I could explain all the photos and memorabilia that were on the wall.  It was fun working the camps when you told the campers I was recruited directly from the soccer camp.  Kids use to come up to me and ask all kinds of questions about getting noticed and doing well in camp.  And I would just keep encouraging them to practice the skills they learned at camp and keep coming back.  And most of them did.  I remember training and running back to the dorms as our fitness.  And by this time we were able to go around the other side of the stadium.  The one with the big hill.  As a camper we went along the right side, but now we were cleared to go up by the graveyard.  I think those walks as a camper and latter as a staff member were actually some very fun memories.  Seeing the look of the kids when a ball came loose and rolled all the way down the hill, friends were made quickly when someone stopped your ball from going all the way down the hill.  I also enjoyed being able to get up and demonstrate the drills for the campers, and I will always remember battling down in the dribbling game to just me and Bruce and beating him that game.  I remember mastering the heading drills and the system you taught for heading.  I still use it today. 

 

I may bounce around with my ideas or memories but it is only because there are so many and they make me so happy to recall them.  And that is what I want you to know.  You had a great program.  But back to the heading.  Here is a story you haven't heard.  At one of the soccer camps I attended called All-Star Camp.  Coach Walt () who was working the camp after seeing me make a one touch pass from the wing said I guess they do have soccer in the. Later we played in a staff vs. camper's game.  The staff took quite delight in being unbeaten and unscored on for several years.  When it was our team's turn to play the staff, a high ball got played into the penalty area; I made a run to the far post, jumped, and did a perfect form header which scored.  Later in a group meeting Coach Walt named me most outstanding player, citing my one touch passes and the goal I scored.  He had me stand up in front of the camp and talked about my play.  He then asked me how I got so good at heading, and in front of the whole group I said “Clemson Tiger Soccer Camp”.  Not the answer they wanted to hear, but they laughed it off and went on. 

 

I think it is really kind of a dream come true that I got to be a part of the 1987 national championship team.  I was so excited when I got to dress for the Duke game.  We lost that game 2-0 but it was a thrill to be on the field.  I then got sick and had to sit for a few weeks. Of course the team picture was made during that time. (Bummer)  But I just kept practicing hard. I was first every 5 mile run.  Then I got my first start.  Against who? Our rivals USC.  My first game playing for Clemson was starting against USC at the largest crowd ever at Clemson at that time.  What a game, I ended up making a hard tackle and having to come out with a yellow card, but I can say I contributed because I ran all the way from the right side to the left goal post and made the goal line save that kept us ahead.  As I ran off the field you said nice skill, keep working and that position is yours.  I got to play again the next game against Coastal.  Once again a thrill.  It seemed like things were going great until the following week's practice when I did a slide tackle that blocked Thomas Najar's shot.  I then got up and ran back down to the other goal and jumped up and did a horizontal scissors volley for the goal that ended practice.  Bruce walked over to me and said that was a great goal. (A great memory hearing that from him.) The next morning my ankle was swollen, and the treatment began.  Why we didn't x-ray the thing I will never know.  I just kept trying to run off the soreness and play through the pain.  But I could not recover and had to watch the rest of the season.  It was not until several years later when I playing in the USISL for the Wilmington Hammer Heads that I finally had my foot x-rayed and we discovered how badly I had broken my ankle.  The doctor looked in amazement at the break and how it had healed.  He said looking at the break and how it healed it occurred around 1987.  I wonder what would have happened to my Clemson career had I not broken it. Well I always believe God has a plan and a purpose.  I remember at one of the final soccer camps in the summer of '88, when you knew I was transferring at the end of a staff scrimmage game, I dribbled down the wing and did a step-over-nutmeg on Joe Hummel and scored.  You came up to me at the end of the game and said you will do very well where ever you go to play, I wish you success.  That meant a lot to me coming from you, thanks.  Although UNCW did not win a national championship, we did post a winning record in the CAA for the first time, and that year I was second leading scorer on the team and top ten in the conference.  Thanks for signing the release and allowing me to continue to play soccer, it was instrumental during that difficult time in my life.  Sometimes the little things you do mean a lot to others, so thanks again.

 

Continuing on with the Clemson saga, as I retired from professional soccer playing, I moved to professional soccer refereeing.  That Clemson tradition is truly a memorable experience.  While refereeing I talked with Eric Eichmann while he was with Miami Fusion, I refereed a match that Richie Richmond played in the USL, also I did a game with Pearse Tormey and Keith.  It was also funny as Bruce was an announcer of one of the games I was working. Also when I got to referee the National Team I could talk to Onyewu about Clemson.  Also other tigers like Alan Woods or Ian Fuller. And it was great to get back down to (Ibe's) field again when I got to referee Clemson at home. (For the record I was fair and always am when refereeing, there are just two teams playing and each team gets a fair shake, I always feel like I have to say that when I referee teams that I have played for.)  There were so many good memories driving back into Clemson.  I had not been back in Clemson for almost 14 years.  I was so glad to get to see you and talk to you again. I just sat in the Tiger Sports Shop for an hour looking around reliving great memories (Thanks again Coach).

 

Once again, I am sure I have written grammatical errors or have misspellings, but I just wanted you to know you did some wonderful things at Clemson both on and off the field.

 

So thanks and God bless you and your family.

 

Charles G. Mitchell III

 

 

 

My Shorter College Days

I have been asked lately, where did I go to college before coming to Clemson as a graduate student in 1964?

I thought I might devote a few lines to those early days.  I came to theas a Rotary Exchange student sponsored by the Rotary Club in.  I went toon scholarship for my freshman year, and I fell in love with, the standard of living, the freedom of speech and the wonderful people I had met.  I decided that I would remain and pay my way to finish my undergraduate education.  I was a bit more advanced academically than my fellow students and my first two years were a breeze academically, so I was able to take a job or two to make money to pay for my tuition.  I taught chemistry labs, prepared chemistry labs for all the students in that small department; worked two jobs during the summers at Rome Kraft Company, a paper mill that paid the best wages and nearly killed me as I was always jumping at opportunities to work double shifts.  I also helped move the many volumes of books to a new library being built at that time.  Needless to say, I was determined to stay at, and to get my degree majoring in chemistry. 

Of course, there was no soccer at, but the local prep school,, had a very fine soccer team.  I started a team at Shorter in 1963, and we played for two years as a varsity team with me acting as coach.  I remember Rex D'Agostino, Joe Ammerati, and others who played on the team.  We had a small area behind the tennis courts where we could practice and we played games at, and.  Most of the guys on the team had never seen a soccer game, we played and had fun. I remember playing my very last game with a broken big right toe which was my kicking foot, primarily, and scoring goals in a victory to end my collegiate soccer career. One other game stands in my memory that was played against a club of foreign students from Georgia Tech and it was a big fiasco for us. We lost 12:1 and the Latin players on the Georgia Tech team celebrated every goal as if they had scored a goal in the World Cup.  

Our athletic Director, Bill Foster (the same one that became basketball coach at Clemson later on), even awarded us varsity letters.  Those were great days; we played schools like,,and others, and enjoyed the competition.  As a side note, I was shocked to read, just a few years ago, that a varsity soccer team was being started atfor the first time.  I suppose no one bothered to look up old issues of the Argo, the school annual, to see Ibrahim and company gracing the pages of the 1963 and 1964 issues.  Of course, when I graduated and moved on to Clemson, the program was abandoned.  After all, I worked for free (reminds me of my first year at Clemson, and the generosity of Frank Howard who paid me zero dollars for my efforts in 1967, yet unknowingly offered me the opportunity of a lifetime for which I will always be grateful.…)

Shorter College realized that they had had a soccer team, or maybe they heard that Ibrahim's Clemson teams had won 11 ACC titles, 2 regular season titles and 2 National Championships.  I was inducted into the Shorter Hall of Fame in 2002, and presented with a certificate that I proudly display on my wall.


Often these days, my thoughts wander back to Dr. Randall Minor, Dr. Whitworth, the dean of students and Mr. Neatherly who paid me for my work at Shorter.  I felt very secure there, and really didn't want to move on in 1964.  Of course, I am glad I did. 

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

 

 

April 14, 2008

 

Memorable Games In My Career

 

The second most memorable game has to be the 1987 national championship game.  But there is more to that actually... the entire season was quite memorable.  Let me digress a bit.  After the national championship of 1984, we had a great season in 1985.  Our national title hopes that year were dashed in the regional finals by a shootout loss to a South Carolina team we had beaten 3:1 earlier in the season.  Then came 1986 and many injuries that kept us out of the NCAA's altogether.  1987 was to be a rebuilding year, but we had some veteran players. Bruce Murray, Paul Rutenis, Tim Genovese, Paul Carollo, John Hummel, and Jamey Rootes come to mind.  We also had a fine crop of freshmen, Chino Alos, Pearse Tormey, Joey Feinberg, John Meek, and Edo Boonstoppel, among others.  I did not have any expectations that year, and we suffered through a 1-4-1 record in the ACC, making a quick exit in the first round of the ACC tournament (a tournament that is ill suited for soccer, and I still believe that to this day, 3 games in three days in soccer is unheard of anywhere else in the world).  That loss was to a physical UNC team, it left me with few expectations in the NCAA's.  However, we were picked to the field of 24 that year as the 23rd team, and we were just happy to be there.

 

The first game was away, at, to another physical team that we stood up well to. Bruce Murray's 30 yard free kick late in the game lifted us to the next round.  I still remember thecoach saying that it was the best collegiate goal he had ever seen, when speaking of's goal.  We were then shipped to Bloomington, Indiana the following week to play an Indiana team that had never lost at home during NCAA play.  That streak ended that day.  We beat them 2:1 in an extremely memorable game, with Bruce Murray scoring the winning goal on a shot that jammed the left corner of the goal and staying jammed there for a few minutes and in my memory to this day.

 

The quarterfinal game was in rainy and coldat.  We won that 3:2 in a very entertaining game that I sometimes remember, as if I am there right now.  Bruce again distinguished himself, and so did Rutenis, Genovese, Alos, Rootes, and the entire crew.

 

We flew back to Clemson and learned that the final 4 would be in Clemson, Southn our new stadium inaugurated that year, with UNC, Harvard andas the other three participants.  We were elated, on cloud 9, chomping at the bits, to get even with UNC whom we thought we could beat and get even with.  As it turned out that Saturday game attended by some 8000 fans in jam packed Riggs Field (hopefully one day it will be Ibrahim field or stadium), against North Carolina, was the best game Clemson played all year long and a 4:1 win was well earned and deserved.  Soccer people came to me after the game and said that that game was a clinic on what was then Clemson Soccer.  I was happy that we played the game as we had been trying to teach it all year long.  We rejoiced and jumped up and down for joy for a couple of hours, then I took the team to eat in a steak house in Anderson (Ryan's, if I remember well).  I told everyone to stay put in the motel we were staying in and rest for the game the next day, less than 20 hours later. 

 

I didn't sleep much that night and woke up, picked up the players, and we returned to Clemson to prepare. I knew we would not have our legs for a full pressure game for 90 minutes and hoped we would not get behind, but get ahead early in the game and hold on.  We played a fast moving, fast paced game, and two days in a row with no rest in between was a difficult chore.  Indeed, we scored early, Chino Alos threw in a ball from the side under the scoreboard, Bruce met the ball and flicked it and Paul Rutenis nudged it.  We were ahead, and in my mind, following the game plan I had invisioned.  We held on through an assault mounted byand our hero, Bruce Murray, got hurt with some 20 minutes remaining in the game.  We did all we could do to stall, andState pushed forward trying to equalize and almost did.  Genevose made some great saves and kept us in the game and freshmen Feinberg, Alos, and Meek, all three now starting in the back due to injuries earlier in the season, stood their ground around team captain Paul Rutenis.  Just as time was running out and we were holding for dear life, another freshman, Richie Richmond from Atlanta, who had stepped in for Murray when the latter was injured, broke through the San Diego Defense, and put us ahead 2:0 with little time on the clock. To this day, when that ball went past the keeper, I still see hundreds of fans standing on the hill behind the goal nearest downtown Clemson jumping in the air, arms raised and screaming for joy.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that we did have a record crowd, which I estimated to be 10,000, but officially was "e;only"e; 8300, the largest crowd to ever witness an NCAA soccer final in history.  It was such a thrill to win a national championship at Clemson, for Clemson with a huge number of Clemson fans witnessing.

 

I don't think any other national championship will ever be played on a college campus hosted by one of the participants.  So that indeed was a unique, memorable day and game in Clemson History.  It also was the second national championship in three years for the Tigers.  I was on top of the world, with some very happy assistants, John Rootes and Shawn Cartmill, and a group of Clemson young men who deserved a championship, when least expected by me.

 

I clearly remember the days of the 70's when 7 of my teams were capable of winning it all, and yet here we were with a team loaded with freshmen...winning it all....what a great achievement, and what a great, memorable game. Clemson's place was forever engraved in the history of collegiate soccer, and I was so happy to be part of it.   Go Tigers!!!!!!

 

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

 

 

March 26, 2008

 

The Most Memorable Soccer Games I Have Ever Coached In My 28 Years At Clemson

I may keep coming back to this topic, but I certainly remember some great games I coached in my 28 years as the soccer coach at Clemson.  The most memorable game was the 1984 national championship game inin the Kingdome.  We had beaten the best teams in the country to get there, including the No. 2, 3 and 4 teams…now we were trying to beat the No. 1 team in the country, Indiana, a two time defending national champion going for a three-peat.

We had been to the final four before; 1973; 1976; 1978 and 1979 (where we played for a national championship and lost 3:2 in the final minutes of the game.)  I had learned a lot from that 1979 game; the most important lesson was to stay put with the team the night before the game and do nothing else but keep the players focused and not feeling overconfident after their big victories, especially in the semifinals.  Interestingly, every game we won in the semifinals in my career, we won by a score of 4:1, including the game in 1979.  We felt overconfident before the final in 1979 and I was not going to make that mistake again.  We stayed put, despite the many distractions in, and really prepared for the battle coming up the next day.

We played to a 0:0 tie in the first half and then scored a go ahead goal in the second half. responded with a tying goal with less than 10 minutes remaining, and my heart sank to the bottom of my body.  I had been waiting 18 years for this national championship, and was hoping my players were still up to the task of scoring a winning goal.  I remember us being awarded a corner kick, and was signaling to the players for Maxie Amatasiro to take the kick and they yelled back at me, “he can't coach, you have him on the bench next to you.”  I quickly inserted him in the game, he served a perfect near post cross, Dick Landgren flipped it and John Lee headed it in.  With only three minutes remaining, I substituted most of the offensive players with defensive ones, and we held on.  It was the greatest feeling I have ever had to that point in life, my first professional success that signaled to the collegiate world that Clemson was, at long last, a national champion.  We all jumped for joy, hugged each other and celebrated; I still remember Gary Conner's fiancée jumping down from the stands and hurting her leg in the jump and him carrying her around while he celebrated.  It had taken me 18 long years to achieve a goal I thought I could realistically achieve 11 years earlier, when we played in our first final four in 1973 in.  It was the sweetest game of them all.

After the game, we went out to get something to eat, only to find that the restaurants inwere all closed and we had neglected to schedule a special meal as we all were so focused on the game.  We wound up at a bar/restaurant and our players ordered hors d'oeuvres to eat.  No matter, we were so happy. The fresh air of the sea was exhilarating and the triumphant event was more than enough to imprint that day into our memories for ever. 

I dreamed so much of a national championship since 1972 when we started offering scholarships for soccer; it took 12 years, and there were sad moments and missed opportunities. In 1973, we lost to UCLA in overtime in the Orange Bowl 2:1 on the carpet; we had another carpet loss, a 1:0 game to San Francisco in 1976; again in the semifinals in Philadephia; and another loss to San Francisco in 1978 in Tampa, 2:1 where in a game we did everything but score winning goals; our fourth final four was again in Tampa, this time we won 4:1 against Columbia, only to lose 3:2 in the final minutes to SIU Edwardsville.   Those were four opportunities were we felt we gave the national championship away.  We had been to the playoffs each year since 1972 with the exception of 1980, and 1983 and we were due.  Finally, we were national champions and well deserving.  That turned out to be everything I had dreamed it would be.  Clemson Soccer, national champions.  Finally.  What a great moment in my life and the lives of all those young men who achieved this great honor.  I will tell them again in 2009, when we have our 25threunion how special that day was in our lives.  And did I mention, we did it on the CARPET of the Kingdome? I didn't like playing on turf, but then we had learned to compete and win without excuses.  A true champion.  Go Tigers !!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

 

Wishing The Basketball Team Great Success In The NCAA's

This past weekend, I witnessed the dawning of a new era in the world of Clemson Basketball.  We went to the ACC tournament, had a bye in the first round, won handily in the second, beat Duke (yeah!!!!!!) in the third, and put forth a valiant effort against UNC in the finals.  We were awesome, and though I am always proud to be a Tiger, on Sunday, that pride was bigger than ever.

That and the invitation to the NCAA's, the first in a long time, made my weekend a very happy one indeed.  I especially loved hearing Bobby Knight say that we may be able to givea run for their money.  I am not looking ahead; I certainly hope we can win the first game and advance.  Hopefully, we will have our legs back, and we will be able to pressure, steal and score.  I think maybe UNC had our number in the second half. They got too many points off counters, and we didn't shoot the ball as well from the foul line.  With the rest from Sunday to Friday night, we will be ready to resume our branded style of Clemson Basketball.  Go Tigers, win, win, win.

Which reminds me of the first time Clemson went to the NCAA tournament in soccer.  We had just won our first ACC championship with 4-0-1 record, as only six teams played soccer in the ACC then; and we were ready to take on the world.  1972 was the year, and we quickly and confidently declared that team as the best ever in our short six year history.  We went undefeated during the regular season, won the first round of the NCAA tournament in a game that was delayed due to inclement weather against West Virginia and lost the next round to Howard in Washington, DC and were thus eliminated.  Our final record that year was, and with only four full scholarships divided among our players, we were there to be reckoned with as a national power, with lots of promise for future years.

My philosophy at that time was that there should be no one on my team who was not willing to give 100 percent each time he took the field, whether in practice or in actual competition.  We always wanted to do our best and strive for excellence.  Dedication, loyalty, hard work, and discipline.  That experience in 1972 was the first of many great experiences to follow. 

I am hoping of course that our basketball team will show the collegiate basketball community that we are here to be respected and to be reckoned with.

I remember most of the basketball coaches who coached at Clemson; Bobby Roberts, Tates Locke, Bill Foster, Cliff Ellis and Rick Barnes.  I enjoyed watching many of their teams play.  They left their legacies at Clemson, and I remember fondly many conversations with them.  I have not met Oliver Purnell personally, but from what is evident, he is a great coach and will continue to be very successful here.  I wish him and his team the best.  Go Tigers!!!!!!!

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

 

 

March 11, 2008

 

Early Clemson Soccer Players: Roger Collins, Andy Demori, Frank Scmidt and Gary Pace

Sitting in my office answering email from my blog this morning, I started thinking again of the early days of Clemson Soccer and four names popped into my mind:

Roger Collins, a native of, who was a world class javelin thrower atunder P. W. Greenfield (whom I succeeded as track coach in the mid eighties for three years.)  Roger tried out for the team and we were thrilled to have him, having seen him compete in an international meet as a javelin thrower in 1969 and throwing a personal best of 269 feet (someone correct me please…my memory of 39 years may be getting weak).  He played as our “sweeper” in 1969 and 1970, and was quite a distinguished player.  He graduated and stayed in the area, and became a home builder.  He built two homes that stand out in my mind, Dr. Byron and Mickie Harder's home across from the Walker golf course, and Lee and Amanda Ibrahim's home, which we contracted him to build, in Central, S.C.  Roger is a superb home builder, and works with a very small crew.  He has traveled toon a couple of occasions and loves to go there and explore nature.  I see him from time to time as he lives in nearby Seneca.  He still looks tough as a rock.  A great memory this morning.

Andy Demori, 1968, 1969 and 1970, scored many goals for Clemson and was also anative who chose to stay in the area.  He scored 19, then 10 and then 27 goals in his years and led the ACC in scoring in 1970.  He went on to teach atin the Clemson area, built a house in Central and lived very close to me for some time.  He coached thefor many years and was quite distinguished as a coach.  He even coached my son, Lee.  I think Andy has retired now, or moved on to administrative duties.  I haven't seen him in quite some time.  Funny how those closest to you are the ones you seldom see.  I loved his left footed shot from left to right that seemed to often find the corner of the goal.  This is another fond memory today.

Frank Schmidtwas fromand was team captain and a remarkable young man.  He was a midfielder for Clemson in those early days and was considered the most valuable player on the team.  His passes were excellent as he seemed to find the breaking outside midfielder often streaking onto his passes.  I remember seeing Frank inwhen we played Philadelphia Textile in the NCAA playoffs in the mid 1970's.  He asked me when I would begin recruiting more American players to my teams…his wish came true much sooner that he expected as we won the 1984 national championship with a predominantly American team.  He was one of the first players on the Clemson varsity team, and definitely a pioneer in those early days.  If anyone talks to Frank, have him drop me an email.  I would love to hear from him again.

Gary Pacewas Clemson's goalkeeper in 1967-1968 and 1969.  He was an Army ROTC student at Clemson and was credited with 276 saves in his career. was from neighboring, was a tall keeper who made some memorable acrobatic saves.  I remember him graduating and then going into the army and to war.  He lost his life in the service of his country in, and I will always remember him as Clemson's first goalkeeper.  I am proud to have been his coach and my heart aches each time I remember him.

So this morning, I remember four of the many young men who played for me and helped set the foundation for the future success of the Clemson Soccer Program.  Go Tigers…..

 

Dr. I. M. Ibrahim

 

March 7, 2008

 

The Early Days of Clemson Soccer

It was quite difficult to get financial support or any kind of support in the early days.  As I recollected in one of my earlier blogs, I was paid zero dollars in my first year as a coach which was 1967.  Nevertheless, I loved soccer so much, and was so happy that I was bringing it to Clemson, that I didn't care. 

We managed winning seasons in 1967 and 1968; but had our first (and only losing season in my 28 year career) in 1969, a 5 and 6 record, which really deflated my enthusiasm quite a bit.  So, being the coach who would never quit, I worked out a deal with Mr. McLellan who was in charge of the finances of our athletics department, and was able to get a few out of state fees reimbursed to some of our deserving out of state students. That helped put us on the winning track again in 1970 and 1971, but did not become a contender yet in our conference which was dominated by.   I then approached my boss, again, and asked him for four scholarships and told him I would win an ACC championship if he were to give them to me (I am and always was an eternal optimist and very confident in the future of my program).  I supposed I bugged him enough and he said, go show me.  I took those four scholarships and went to a Junior College tournament in Miami and recruited several outstanding athletes, including Henry Abadi, Italo Yanuzzelli, Ron Giesbers, and others and thanks to a young man I tried to recruit and failed (a goalkeeper who got a full scholarship to Brown and could not pass up the opportunity to go to an Ivy League School) I was put in touch with Clyde Browne, who came directly from Guyana and became the ACC's MVP, player of the year, 4 years in a row, a record yet to be equaled and may be hard to equal in the future.

1972 was our first year as a soccer power.  We won the ACC with a perfect record, and didn't lose again in the ACC until 1980.  We made the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament and became a team to be reckoned with.

Thanks to Clyde Browne, and our first ACC championship, I was then able to convince Mr. McLellan to give me more scholarships, and even spent some of my meager income, in those days, and traveled towhere I met Clyde Browne who was on summer vacation, and he showed me the city ofand some more great players.  I met several people inwho helped me find the better soccer players/students and we soon had a contingent of Guyanese players who took us to the final four, our first, in the 1973 season.  Clyde Browne helped bring a lot of recognition to Clemson Soccer; he was a very talented young man with great discipline, an excellent student, and a great representative of his country.  The best two teams in the conference were Clemson and, and I believe the other ACC schools started discovering that soccer was the next up and coming sport; they started funneling more money into their programs and the conference became the premier soccer conference in the country.  I strongly believe Henry Abadi, Andy Demori, Clyde Watson, Ralston Moore, Alfred Morrison, Gordon Alphonso, Ron Giesbers, and many others I will be asked about, caused the ACC to become a very competitive conference and the premier conference in the country. 

In my next segment, I will try and recount my recruiting inand; and the next phase of Clemson's presence in the top echelon of collegiate soccer.  In the meantime, please feel free to email me with your comments and I will do my best to answer ASAP.  My email address has been changed tocoach1984@tigersports.com.

 

 

 
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