Just ask former UNC Greensboro men’s soccer coach Michael Parker.
Parker and the Spartans reached the top of the college polls on Oct. 17, 2004, UNCG’s first No. 1 national ranking since moving to Division I. It’s also the sports moment judged No. 1 in school history.
Just 19 days earlier, James Goodman’s goal 28 minutes into the game gave UNCG a 1-0 victory against North Carolina. It was the Spartans’ fourth victory of the season against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
All four major soccer polls — College Soccer News, Soccer America, Soccer Times and the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll — listed the Spartans No. 1.
“We all know it means absolutely nothing until the end of the year,” Parker told USA Today’s Andy Gardiner. “But having actually gone to No. 1, I have to acknowledge what it has done for us in terms of interest in the community and in raising the profile of the university. This is really nice.”
They remained the consensus No. 1 for two more weeks and a top-ranked team for a fourth week before its 18-game unbeaten streak was snapped.
But it wasn’t the first or only time Parker had been No. 1.
He led the Spartans to three consecutive NCAA Division III titles from 1985-87, becoming the first coach to win three consecutive NCAA men’s soccer national championships on any level.
UNCG moved up to Division II in 1988 and finished second in the 1989 tournament. The Spartans jumped to D-I in 1992 and in 1993 Parker became the first men’s soccer coach in NCAA history to lead a school to the tournament in all three divisions.
Parker went out on top, retiring in 2010 as the winningest active coach in Division I men’s soccer. He coached 11 All-Americans, including Siggi Eyjolfsson, UNCG’s first three-time All-American, and Randi Patterson.
Parker won two Division III and one Division II titles at Lock Haven (Pa.) before coming to a UNCG program in 1984 that already owned two D-III championships. During 26 seasons at UNCG, he was 382-164-26 and led the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament 15 times, including eight in Division I.
In 2004, the Spartans earned the Southern Conference’s first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, garnering a No. 8 seed. They advanced to the Sweet 16 before a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara, the eventual national runner-up.
Parker led the Spartans back to the Sweet 16 in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
“It has been quite a ride,” he said when announcing his retirement. “What an opportunity to come to Greensboro 26 years ago. I never could have thought it would have been like this. We’ve had wonderful success during that time at a variety of levels. So many players have gone on to great careers both in and out of the sport. It is so hard to just sum it all up.”
No. 1 says it all.
On the cover and above: At UNC Greensboro, Michael Parker became the first men’s soccer coach in NCAA history to lead a school to the NCAA Tournament in all three divisions. (Courtesy University of North Carolina at Greensboro Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: New Mexico State and New Orleans
• Tuesday: Nicholls and UNC Asheville
• Wednesday: UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington
• Thursday: North Dakota and Northeastern
• Friday: Northern Illinois and Northern Kentucky