Rainey leaves behind renewed Iowa program

BY JACOB SHEYKO | APRIL 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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When asked to pick out one moment, Ron Rainey thought about his first spring game as the Iowa women’s soccer head coach.

Iowa played poorly, and Rainey let the players know afterward. But following his postgame talk, then-junior Sarah Stephenson walked up to Rainey and thanked him, then told him that they would get better.

The Iowa soccer program has done just that in their eight years under Rainey, going from a program that rarely won a Big Ten game into one that competed for a Big Ten championship.

It’s a program that Rainey is now leaving, trading the black and gold attire of Iowa for Dartmouth green, where he will become the new women’s soccer head coach.

“Taking everything into account, our family is at a point where it was a move we could make as a family … it was so hard to leave Iowa, because Iowa is a wonderful place,” Rainey said. “But it was a move to kind of take that leap and take on a new set of challenges.”

He said numerous reasons went into his decision, a decision he called the toughest professional and personal decision of his life. Those reasons vary from family to the prospects of coaching at an Ivy League school — one that compiled an 8-6-3 record last season.

“I have known Ron Rainey as a friend and colleague for more than 20 years and have always had respect for him as a coach and person,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said in a release. “His experience and professionalism will make him a great addition to the Ivy League.”

When Rainey took helm at Iowa, the program had never won a postseason game, never beaten Penn State, and never earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Under Rainey, all of that changed.

It wasn’t simple, though, Rainey and the Hawkeyes didn’t post double-digit win totals until his sixth season at Iowa. But once it did, Rainey and Company established consistency in the soccer program, winning 13 games in 2011, 12 in 2012, and 15 last season.

With or without Rainey, this is something he expects to continue.

“The players should be so proud of what they’ve done, and in the same way, what they’re going to do over the next couple of years,” Rainey said. “That’s something that with a clear mind, I can say we’ve really made some nice improvements over eight years here.”

Turning programs around is nothing new to Rainey.

Before Iowa, Rainey took an inaugural season at Ball State in which it went 1-17-1 and turned it into a team that in his final season as coach went 15-3-2. Before that, Rainey took a Towson State team that went 3-11-2 in the previous year and transformed it into the 1996 America East Tournament Champions.

This has led Rainey to be one of the more respected names in women’s college soccer.

“Ron Rainey is a class act and an outstanding tactician on the soccer field,” Michigan women’s soccer head coach Greg Ryan said in a release. “He recruited and developed a very talented team at Iowa, taking that program to new heights this past season. I think he’ll be a great leader at Dartmouth.”

Rainey said that what was accomplished at Iowa was special. But he noted that it would become even more special if the success continues in the years to come.

“What will make it more special is when the 2014 team takes that next step,” he said. “Maybe they win the Big Ten championship.

“How awesome would that be?”

A release from Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta thanked Rainey for his service and said a search for his successor will begin immediately.

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