12/1/15 ASHLAND, Ohio - The Ashland University men’s soccer program has its leader. University of Akron assistant coach Oliver Slawson has been named the fifth head men’s soccer coach at AU, according to Ashland Director of Athletics Al King, who announced Slawson’s hiring on Tuesday (Dec. 1).
“We are fortunate to attract a young coach of Oliver Slawson’s caliber,” King said. “We had over 140 applicants for this position, and the pool included talented individuals from every part of the country. The people we talked to raved about Oliver’s ability to recruit, his attention to detail and his in-game coaching skills. One of our goals was to find someone who could be the face of the program in every aspect of college soccer. Oliver fits that description.”
Said Slawson, “It’s a great opportunity. I’m excited for it. The school bringing the program back shows the commitment to the athletic program, specifically men’s soccer. And you can see the success the department has. I wouldn’t be coming from the environment that I’m in unless I believed in what the athletic department can offer here, and what the university can offer as a whole.”
On Sept. 30, 2015, Ashland announced it was reinstating the men’s soccer program on campus starting with the fall 2016 season. The program was discontinued prior to the fall 2013 season.
Slawson spent the last decade on the Zips’ coaching staff, and served as a full-time assistant for the last six seasons. Current Major League Soccer and USA National Team players Will Trapp, Perry Kitchen, Teal Bunbury and Darlington Nagbe all have been a part of the successful Akron program with Slawson on the coaching staff, along with 2014 FIFA World Cup star DeAndre Yedlin.
Akron has made nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a national title in 2010 and a national runner-up finish in 2009, and won 10 straight Mid-American Conference championships with Slawson on staff. Over the last eight years, the Zips have won more games, have the highest winning percentage and produced more professional players than any other Division I program.
“I think Oliver’s presence shows how serious Ashland University is about building a strong men’s soccer program,” King said. “Akron University is one of the top men’s soccer programs in the nation. On the field, off the field, marketing, student-athlete development, it’s hard to find a soccer program that’s better year in and year out than Akron’s. The Zips seem to have built their program following a successful process, one that Oliver knows very well.
“We wanted someone for this position who could see the big picture and build a strong, all-around program. Oliver has those attributes.”
Prior to his time at Akron, Slawson spent two seasons (2003-04) at Kenyon College as an assistant. He also has coached summer clinics in Ohio and with Great Britain Buckeye Soccer, as well as in southern Maryland and in France.
Slawson also has served as a staff coach with the Under-18 and current Under-14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Cleveland Internationals club team for the past five years.
Slawson originally is from Manchester, England, and earned his Master of Science in Education at Akron in 2006. He graduated from Leeds Carnegie Metropolitan University in Leeds, England, with a degree in Business and Management in 2003.
At Leeds, Slawson was a four-year member of the soccer team which won the Northern Universities League title three times and the Northern Universities Cup twice. Prior to that, he was selected for the Lancashire County Football Association U-19’s and represented Oldham Athletic Football Club of the English Football League at academy level.
The Ashland University men’s soccer program began play both as a varsity sport and as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the fall of 1995. In their 18 seasons as a varsity sport, the Eagle men had an overall record of 171-127-28 (.567).
The Eagles will play a GLIAC schedule beginning in the fall of 2016.
“It’s not a new program,” Slawson said, “so we are going to reference some successes of the past, and we’re looking to build on those aspects of the program. But we have a blank canvass here, and we’re going to start a tradition of excellence and we’re going to win on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
“This is not a rebuilding process. We’re going to hit the ground running. We're going to go out there, we’re going to get the best players for this program and this university to help us compete straight away in the conference, and we’re going to take it from there. We’re going to play an attractive brand of soccer where young men are going to want to be a part of it, and we’re going to be a winning program with a winning culture from Day 1.”
The reinstated program will practice and compete at Ferguson Soccer Field, the state-of-the art sport turf soccer field that was made possible by the donation of local businessman Ben Ferguson. Ferguson Field was completed in 2010 as part of the Dwight Schar Athletic Complex, and also serves as the home field for the AU women’s soccer team.
Ashland’s men reached the NCAA Division II postseason five times – 2001, 2003 and 2008-10. The Eagles earned a spot in the D-II Elite Eight in 2001. Also included in that time was a GLIAC Tournament championship in 2010, as well as four GLIAC regular-season titles - 2005 and 2008-10. The 2005 regular-season crown snapped Mercyhurst's 10-year run as conference champions/co-champions.