June 8, 2006
DeKALB, IL -- When Northern Illinois University head men's soccer coach Steve Simmons began his search to fill his assistant coaching vacancy, his criteria included experience, goalkeeping expertise, solid recruiting skills, a great work ethic, and familiarity with Midwest soccer.
He found all of those and more in hiring Eric Luzzi, the head coach of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Luzzi replaces Ian Clerihew, who was selected assistant head coach at St. John's University on April 7 under Redmen boss David Masur.
A Chicago native, Luzzi followed up a stellar prep goalkeeping career at St. Ignatius High School as a four-year letterman and starting keeper at Saint Mary's. His resume includes two campaigns as head coach for Schaumburg High School prior to his return to his alma mater where he spent the last five seasons guiding the Division III Cardinals. The son of Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association (IHSSCA) Hall of Famer and long-time St. Ignatius head coach Jim Luzzi, the new NIU assistant has also logged six summers working with the Olympic Development Program (ODP), including the United States Soccer Federation's Region II camp which has been held at NIU.
"I've had the chance to work with Eric at the ODP Regional level as well as at our own NIU Elite Soccer Camp, plus I strongly believe Eric's experience as a college head coach gives him the well-rounded coaching maturity that is vital for this position," Simmons said. "I was looking for someone to complement what Ian did with our goalkeepers. I'm certain Eric is up for the challenge having coached some of the best keepers in the Midwest over the past several years.
"As a St. Ignatius alum, Eric has a good recruiting network in the Chicagoland area and his recruiting work ethic is similar to ours. I believe we had a strong national pool of candidates and I'm very pleased to have Eric joining our staff."
Simmons, whose staff includes assistants Chase Brooks and Kylie Stannard, directed the Huskie program back into the nation's Top 25 polls for the first time in two decades with an 11-6-2 overall record for 2005 that included a 4-1-0 ledger in the Mid-American Conference. It was the second straight year that NIU was runner-up in the regular-season standings for a loop featuring two other Top 25 programs in the Universities of Akron and Buffalo. After a 3-13-2 debut in 2003, Simmons directed the Huskies to the nation's second-best turnaround in Division I with a 12-7-0 campaign for 2004.
"Although I considered some other openings, I was pleased to be coaching at my alma mater and really had no desire to leave SMU, but the more I talked with Steve and looked into this, the more it became an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Luzzi said. "Being close to home is a huge plus for me, but more important to me was the fact that at NIU the administration and coaches truly live the core values. A lot of places post a mission statement, but Northern Illinois really lives it, and makes it possible to have a real positive impact on the student-athletes in the program.
"I'm excited to work with and to learn from Steve and his staff. The program has clearly been on the rise and the challenge is to continue making progress even as Steve strengthens the schedule. I share the program's desire to get into the NCAA tourney," Luzzi added.
Originally a three-year varsity starter at St. Ignatius, Luzzi was a First-Team All-Catholic League honoree as a junior and senior. As a senior captain, he also earned first-team all-area honors before his collegiate playing career at Saint Mary's. As a prep coach, Luzzi sported a 15-16-7 record with his second season including a regional trophy for the Saxons. During that time, he also directed the Schaumburg soccer club program.
In addition to his ODP experience, Luzzi boasts a USSF National "A" License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, NSCAA Level III National Goalkeeping License, a USSF Youth License and a Dutch Soccer Federation Youth Coaching Certificate. A 1997 graduate of Saint Mary's, Luzzi earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science Education and is currently pursuing a Master's in Human Development from SMU.
(For more information, please contact Steve Nemeth) -- NIU --