Roosevelt ready for soccer team's debut

CHICAGO -- All Graham Brennan had in place when he was hired to be Roosevelt University’s soccer coach was a team name.

His team, like all Roosevelt teams, would be the Lakers.

He had nothing else. No players. No staff. No jerseys. No practice field. No game field. He didn’t even have soccer balls.

When hired in September 2011, Brennan’s job was not only to build Roosevelt its first soccer team for the 2012 season; he was also in charge of building Roosevelt a soccer program.

It’s almost as if he was playing a video game.

“When you play some soccer video games, there’s the manager, and you don’t actually play the game,” said the 33-year-old Brennan on a recent afternoon on Roosevelt’s Chicago downtown campus. “You pick the team, you buy the guys and that stuff. It’s similar to the game.

“From Day 1, it was kind of like find the players, get the schedule and slowly just work through that stuff. I haven’t even ordered the balls yet. I still got to buy balls, pennies, cones. I just got the uniforms today.”

Brennan’s priority from the start was recruiting. While he understood everything that went into creating a program was going to be time consuming, he realized none of it would mean anything if he couldn’t field a competitive team.

Further complicating Brennan’s recruiting pitch were the finances –unlike most NAIA coaches, he doesn’t have athletic scholarship money to attract players. There are other types of financial aid available, but most student-athletes like the sound of an athletic scholarship.

Despite that obstacle, Brennan went out and sold recruits on the opportunity of building something special from the ground up at Roosevelt.

“You’re going to start something, create your own legacy right away,” Brennan, who was hired by Roosevelt athletic director Michael Cassidy, explained.

Not every player bit on it, but nearly 30 players, including 20 from the Chicago area, did, and Brennan believes his first team will be able to holds its own during the upcoming season.

Once Brennan got the ball rolling in recruiting, he took on the challenge of everything else. He located two Chicago Park District fields he could use for practice. He used his contacts with the Chicago Fire and worked out a deal to use the Fire’s turf practice field as Roosevelt’s home field.

Brennan was even given liberty to create his own jerseys.

“My approach was okay, home, Celtic (uniforms,)” Brennan said of the Scottish club team. “That’s already a name brand and a recognized brand. I went with that. And the away, just looking, if you’ve seen Juventus, the pink with the black, which is pretty cool, so I went with the black with the green. I saw two pretty cool uniforms, asked the AD and he said no problem. There you go.”

After a nearly a year of putting together everything, Brennan is ready for the next step.

“I think at this point I’m looking forward to practice,” Brennan said.