EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Mario Sanchez has resigned as SIUE men's soccer head coach to accept a position as the Director of Youth Development and Community Relations for Louisville City FC of the United Soccer League.
Sanchez amassed a record of 38-24-14 in four seasons as the Cougars' head coach. SIUE won a regular season championship and a tournament championship in the Missouri Valley Conference under his leadership. In 2016, SIUE advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA College Cup.
"It is a sad day when you lose someone who has been so impactful, and has been such a great mentor and leader for our program," SIUE Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Hewitt said. "The SIUE soccer program is one of great tradition. We have been blessed with many great coaches. Some left expectedly to retirement and some left unexpectedly for great opportunities.
"Coach Sanchez has a great opportunity both professionally and for his family," Hewitt continued. "We absolutely wish him success and happiness."
"It's incredibly bittersweet. I am truly proud of what we have accomplished here in four years," Sanchez said. "I want to thank Dr. Hewitt and Chancellor Randy Pembrook for this opportunity. I am excited to see what the future holds for SIUE with the commitment from the school and the move to the Mid-American Conference."
Sanchez oversaw the Cougars' transition from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to the Mid-American Conference prior to the 2017 season. SIUE has made two appearances in the MAC Tournament.
"The program will move on," Hewitt said. "We will immediately begin trying to identify the right individual just as we did with Coach Sanchez. The program is right on the edge of becoming an annual contender for the MAC Championship and for at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament."
As Director of Youth Development and Community Relations, Sanchez will establish the Louisville City FC youth program and will be handling community outreach through the sport. Sanchez won't be completely giving up his coaching role, as he also will work with Louisville City FC's USL Championship team.
"It is exciting for me because I'll do a little of everything," Sanchez said. "When they presented the opportunity and I saw what it entailed, it's everything that I love to do. It gives me the opportunity to work with the pro team which I was definitely interested in. It's also an opportunity for our family to return to Louisville. It's the place we have lived the most. There is a comfort zone in going back there.
"It was an extremely difficult decision, because of the direction of the program and also the people we have met here both through SIUE and throughout the community," Sanchez added.
SIUE has made 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and has won two National Championships (1972 and 1979). The Cougars have two conference tournament championships and have made two NCAA appearances since returning to NCAA Division I play in 2010.
Hewitt said the search for a permanent replacement will begin immediately.
"With each change there is an opportunity for growth, and we will move forward," he said. "Nevertheless, we will miss Coach Sanchez and all he has done for us. Again, we can't thank him enough."