In my time at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I encountered quite a few punks.
Most were of the drunken variety, attempting to be tough late at night in the streets and apartments of Isla Vista. To me, these moments were often amusing, as they usually led to stumbling, bumbling idiots pushing and yelling — I never saw anything truly escalate and get out of control. These punks were nothing more than drunken fools, and I'm sure that their actions surely brought them ridicule the following morning when their caretakers, I mean friends, had to explain to them what happened the previous night.
However, on Sunday, October 28th, one Gaucho took it to a whole 'nother level, and in doing so, he brought shame upon my alma mater. Senior defender Peter McGlynn of the nationally acclaimed UCSB soccer team performed one of the most blatant, foul, cheap shots I've ever seen.
Coming off of consecutive golden goal overtime losses that dropped UCSB to 25th in the national ranks, UCSB faced UC Davis in a game with serious Big West postseason implications. With tensions running high, the match went to overtime with each side having scored a single goal in regulation. In the overtime period, a blocked shot in the box led to a scrum and the eventual rebound was capitalized by UC Davis forward Matt Sheldon as he sent the ball into the back of the net.
The golden goal ended the game, but the controversy surrounding the final play soon started an ugly sequence that will taint UCSB.
Judging from the video, it's clear that head coach Tim Vom Steeg was unhappy with the officiating in the match. Vom Steeg felt that his goalie was pushed and grabbed throughout the final sequence, and he let the referees know about it as he berated them on the field.
With coach Vom Steeg scolding the officials as they began heading for the exit, he set the stage for a dishonorable act by promoting and even validating rage. With Vom Steeg and other players surrounding the officials, McGlynn ran up from behind and delivered a punk adolescent move that is usually seen during playground brawls, an unexpected push in the back. The push caused the official to eat dirt face first as the unexpected attack laid him out.
In one fell swoop, McGlynn shamed the university, Chancellor Yang, the students, the alumni, and a dominant soccer program. McGlynn's regrettable action surely stemmed from a night of frustration, but being a punk and pushing an unsuspecting person in the back is not the way to release such frustration. After suffering three consecutive overtime losses, and picking up a yellow card in this overtime, McGlynn was obviously upset with the way the season had turned. I guess it's safe to say that he disagreed with the call and felt cheated by the outcome. McGlynn was immediately assessed a red card and UCSB police escorted him off the field in handcuffs.
All athletes have been in a situation where an official blew a call, but dealing with adversity is a trait that athletes should be comfortable with, especially a senior. If this had been a freshman, maybe I would have questioned the kid's decision making abilities, but McGlynn is a senior, someone who's had enough life experience to know better. Hell, if the Packers didn't riot following the incompetency of the replacement officials on that Fail Mary, then no one has the right to touch an official.
McGlynn's dishonorable action was nearly prevented by Vom Steeg, but it was too little too late. If Vom Steeg had handled his criticism of the officials in a more professional manner, he wouldn't have been berating the official on the field following the game. Doing so allowed a mob mentality to take over, and Vom Steeg's attempt to jump in and prevent the push came a split second late. Vom Steeg clearly noticed McGlynn running up behind the official, and in an attempt to prevent any disorder, he jumped forward in an attempt to prevent the push from occurring. By acting unprofessionally, Vom Steeg subconsciously encouraged such despicable behavior.
The fallout from this incident will reach far and wide. UCSB will be featured in unflattering spots on programs like Good Morning America and The View, and many will take shots at the school, the students, and the soccer program.
As an alumni, I'm disgraced with the entire ordeal.
As a fan of the excellent soccer program, I'm disappointed.
I was there for the UCSB-UCLA match in 2010 that set a Harder Stadium record with 15,896 fans in attendance, the third highest attendance in collegiate soccer history — and it was just a regular season matchup! That game rivaled any sporting experience I've been to, including professional playoff games.
I ran on the field in 2007 after UCSB defeated Washington State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. With tortillas flying onto the field, my roommate and I jumped the barricade and sprinted as a huge circle formed at midfield. We joined the circle and began jumping and screaming and just soaking in the moment.
These moments will forever be a part of my UCSB history, and without a football team, they will also be considered the biggest athletic events of my school tenure — sorry Men's basketball, I know you won the Big West Tournament and earned invitations to the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons, but I didn't witness these games live in attendance because they were not at home (and you got blown out in consecutive first round appearances in the NCAA tournament against powerhouses). Although it sure was fun taunting Tyler Hansbrough when Duke came to visit — prior to the game the public address announcer told the crowd to keep the chants clean... we didn't.
For better or worse, soccer is the sport of choice in Santa Barbara. In fact, UCSB broke its own record to set the NCAA soccer record with an average attendance of 5,873 fans per game in 2010.
Unfortunately, the current students are on pace to break that attendance record, averaging 6,153 fans per game, but it's all for naught. Due to the incident, McGlynn has been cut, Vom Steeg has been suspended for one game, and the school has forfeited the opportunity to enter postseason play. Just like that, the season has been rendered meaningless. Mark Massari, the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at UCSB, was put in a position that I'm sure he never envisioned, but in the end, he had to drop the hammer. By forfeiting the right to enter postseason play, this will be the first time in over a decade that UCSB will not enter the NCAA tournament.
While playing Varsity basketball in high school, I used to absolutely despise the notion that one mistake could lead to punishment for the entire team. We would run drills, and if one player wasn't giving his all or was making mistakes, the entire team was forced to run suicides. I understood the concept of success and failure within the realm of the team, but I just really hated running suicides, especially if it was because of someone else's mistake.
But when you look at an incident like this, it sure does highlight the importance of team, the sanctity of team, the dedication required of all members of a team. One incident has shattered the season. One mistake has cost every single player on the squad. All the training, the sweat, the fatigue, the hours, the early mornings, the staying in instead of partying, the commitment, all of it went for nothing. Imagine how that feels. Imagine the dedication required to play Division I soccer on a national powerhouse, and then attempt to understand how it would feel to see that dedication rendered meaningless.
In the preseason, the UCSB soccer program entered as a consensus top 10 squad among numerous polls, and they even reached their highest preseason ranking ever, tabbed number four by Soccer America. With such hype and national expectations, this team was expected to contend for a national title. Vom Steeg has been one of the most impressive coaches in collegiate soccer history, but this season will surely serve as a black mark upon his accomplished resume — a 195-75-30 record in 14 seasons at UCSB, five Big West titles in the past 10 years, 10 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, a national title in 2006, national runner up in 2004, Big West Conference Coach of the Year in 2004, 2005, and 2010, and the NSCAA National Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2006. Clearly, this program has a history of success, and such an implosion probably never even entered the realm of possible end scenarios.
As we all know, sometimes all it takes is for one lapse in judgement to turn someone's world upside down. In this case, it took two. Vom Steeg and McGlynn just threw away the season, and in doing so, tarnished an excellent UCSB reputation.
There's always next year, but it will take a long time for this incident to pass over. This is not what UCSB is all about, and hopefully the entire school will rally together and show that true Gaucho spirit.
And to whoever caught that moment on camera and uttered "nice push," at the end of the video, you're weak man. I really don't know what to say if you consider a cheap shot like that a legitimate, deserved retaliation.
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