Former Tar Heels soccer coach finds relevance he sought

Former Tar Heels coach discovers relevance he sought at Creighton

dscott@charlotteobserver.comDecember 7, 2011 

Being the men's soccer coach at North Carolina probably means you're never going to get the public attention you - or your program - might deserve. Not as long as women's coach Anson Dorrance and his team are around.

So, although Elmar Bolowich had taken the North Carolina men's team to 15 NCAA tournaments, five College Cups and a national title in 22 seasons, he nonetheless resigned and left for Creighton in February.

Bolowich remains successful: his second-seed Bluejays (21-2) will face unseeded Charlotte (16-4-3) in a College Cup semifinal Friday in Hoover, Ala.

The other semifinal has Bolowich's old team, top-seed North Carolina (20-2-2) playing No. 13 UCLA (18-4-1).

In terms of attention on their home campuses, Bolowich thinks what Creighton has achieved could be a bigger deal in Omaha, Neb., than any buzz in Chapel Hill over the Tar Heels' postseason run.

"It's just about interest," said Bolowich, who left North Carolina as the program's all-time winningest coach (280-144-40). "It wasn't UNC per se, but I felt like the Chapel Hill community didn't have enough interest in us. The response was just not there."

Things are different in Omaha, he said. For one, Creighton doesn't have a football team. And while the Bluejays' women's team has been successful, the Creighton men are usually a major story around Omaha in the fall (although nothing is bigger than Nebraska football in that state). Prior to Bolowich's arrival, Creighton had made 18 NCAA tournament appearances and played in three College Cups.

"Soccer is important here," Bolowich said. "We get great crowds, even in mid-week. We feel like we're a real value to the Omaha community."

One irony in Bolowich's decision to leave is that the Tar Heels women's team - which under Dorrance has won 21 national titles - has now failed to reach the College Cup for two straight seasons.

Bolowich didn't deny the attention directed to the women's program had some influence on his decision to leave.

"Perhaps, but it is what it is," he said. "It was something you learned to deal with. I don't want to take anything away from them. They deserved all the attention they've gotten."

This is Bolowich's fourth consecutive appearance in the College Cup. He took the Tar Heels there the previous three seasons.

"It's a chance that it can happen," Bolowich said of a potential matchup in Sunday's championship game between his current and former teams. "I would look forward to it. We hope we can advance to it."

He has a fondness for the Tar Heels, most of whom he recruited.

"They are (my boys)," he said. "I am happy for them."

Scott: 704-358-5889

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