Long before the Purdue University Calumet men’s soccer team created a buzz with its’ first playoff win in more than three decades just this past November, Frank Carroll was building the foundation of the program’s first men’s soccer teams – nearly 50 years ago.
Carroll, however, will tell jokingly you his part in Purdue Calumet soccer history was simply a matter of chance.
“I was just the right fit by accident,” Carroll said with a laugh by phone from his retirement residence in Lakeland, Fla., where he’s lived with his wife of 56 years, Sally – a Purdue Calumet graduate herself – since the late 1990’s.
“It was a time period when soccer was growing nationwide , and when I became president of the youth soccer association, we had 300 kids playing and when I left, we had more than 3,300 players,” he continued. “All that growth happened when I was in charge, but I just happened to be there – and gave it a little push in the right direction.”
Carroll, who spent 14 seasons as the head men’s soccer coach for the then-Purdue University Calumet Lakers, is the lone inductee into the 2014-15 Purdue Calumet Athletic Hall of Fame. He will be honored during halftime of the 3 p.m. men’s basketball game against Indiana University South Bend Saturday at the Fitness and Recreation Center.
The Hammond High graduate coached Purdue Calumet from 1969 to 1983, compiling an 81-73-8 overall mark. Carroll said his teams qualified for the postseason in every season but two, and managed to stay unbeaten against the likes of Purdue, Northwestern and Notre Dame.
His best season came during the 1982 campaign, when he led the Lakers to a 15-2 mark, en route to its first playoff win and a spot in the NAIA District 2 semifinals. Purdue Calumet defeated IPFW in thrilling fashion, topping the Mastodons 3-2 in a sudden-death shootout. The 15-2 finish remains the best record in school history.
It was a time, however, when soccer was just being introduced as an alternative to mainstream sports like football and basketball. That makes Carroll’s success even more special.
“The main problem at the beginning was you had a bunch of people who liked to play sports, so what we had were players who were not trained in soccer,” he said. “We had to train people how to play.”
Carroll, who competed in football and track and field as a student at Hammond High, picked up soccer while in college at Columbia University in 1958, ending up making it as a reserve for the varsity squad.
When he returned to Hammond, he started an intramural soccer program, initially started to help keep football players in shape in the spring, and it caught on. The year before he became Lakers’ head coach, five area high school teams had introduced boys’ soccer and Carroll took on the duties as head coach at Hammond High, a position he held from 1969-1994.
“I was brought in, and I was the high school coach that everyone looked up to,” Carroll said.
In total, Carroll led seven Laker teams to the NAIA playoffs.
Looking back, the primary soccer field at that time was where the current Classroom Office Building stands, the secondary field was located where the Fitness and Recreation Center is now located, and the third field was over where Peregrine and Griffin Hall were built. The National Guard Armory served as the team’s locker rooms and Carroll said he started with a budget of $250 to get the team new uniforms.
Carroll admits his coaching style was not by any means, strict.
“I was probably too easy,” he said with a chuckle. “That was part of getting kids to try to play soccer.”
Nowadays, Carroll keeps busy writing sports articles for his retirement park’s monthly publication and serving as a volunteer for the various sporting events – primarily road races – held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, located just 56 miles inland in Orlando.