Highlander History: Men’s Soccer at UCR

A blast from the past via the University Archives

The first UCR men’s soccer team was established in 1957. Credit: UCR Archives

Welcome to Inside UCR’s newest feature, Highlander History!

Each issue, University Archivist Bergis Jules will present a piece of UCR’s past from the library archives. For more great stories about UCR traditions and history, follow @UCRArchives on Twitter or visit the University Archive on the fourth floor of Rivera Library.  

Men’s soccer at UCR started as an intramural sport in the fall of 1956 and although the coaches, Professors Wydfrig Evans (classics) and Gino Rizzo (Spanish), had a tough time recruiting players for that first team, they were eventually able to field a team that would host UCLA in an exhibition game on campus in November of 1956. In fact the inspiration for starting the UCR soccer team came from the success of the UCLA team and its legendary coach Ed Stuart, who was a friend of UCR soccer head coach Evans.

A Highlander news article from 1957 about the first soccer team at UCR. CRedit: UCR Archives

A Highlander news article from 1957 about the first soccer team at UCR. CRedit: UCR Archives

UCLA was also happy to help get the program off the ground by not only agreeing to a take part in an exhibition game but also giving some soccer lessons to the UCR team, none of whom had any experience playing soccer, and also offering to donate 18 pairs of soccer boots to the UCR team. The charity ended there, though, as the conference champion UCLA team went on to defeat UCR 9-1 in the first exhibition game in November of 1956 followed by a 3-2 defeat in a second exhibition game the following month.

Despite the early challenges of building a team, there seems to have been wide campus support for the formation of the team and a 1956 Highlander newspaper article captured the mood on campus: “The administration and staff are solidly behind the soccer effort. Dean Olmstead states: it is traditional in liberal arts colleges to encourage widespread participation in competitive athletics; for this reason I welcome the introduction of soccer at UCR since it increases the available opportunities for competitive sports participation.” In just a few short years in 1961, the UCR soccer team would improve tremendously and ended the season ranked second in the conference behind UCLA.  Today, UCR men’s and women’s soccer are Division I programs and members of the Big West Conference.

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