B.J. Snow handed UCLA's reins

B.J. Snow has served admirably the last five years with UCLA's women's soccer program, and Tuesday he received his reward.

The 33-year-old coach, whose mentors include Indiana University legend Jerry Yeagley, was handed the reins of the Bruin women, taking over for Jill Ellis, who resigned to take a post with U.S. Soccer.

It's a plum assignment: UCLA is among the nation's premier women's soccer programs, and the administration's decision to promote someone with negligible head-coaching experience says plenty about its respect for Snow and the work he did alongside Ellis.

“It's an opportunity you hope for throughout your lifetime,” said Snow, 33, who joined Ellis as a volunteer assistant in 2006, was added to the staff full-time in 2007 and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2009. “It's where I wanted to be at the right time. I couldn't be more excited to build on what Jill started the last 12 years and hit the ground running.”

Ellis, who built UCLA into a powerhouse after taking command of the program in 1999, called Snow “a tremendous guy, a tremendous coach” and predicted his skill-set would well serve UCLA.

“I think it's two-fold,” Ellis said. “He's entrenched in the program, understands the demands and expectations here, the type of player who does well here. And his natural properties, his brain, his strengths in recruiting -- all these things will make him very successful here.

“But the big thing is it's not a mystery to him. He's been here. He understands the expectations and the level of excellence demanded. … I think B.J. has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Ellis on Wednesday was announced as the development director for U.S. women's youth national teams, a newly created post.

Snow, who is married to U.S. women's national team forward/midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, expects a seamless transition and wants to continue the work Ellis started.

“We don't need to change a whole lot,” he said. “We can continue to have the same quality that Jill built the program around. Certainly, there will be touches that are my own, but we'll continue to bring into the program people with character, the best soccer players we can possibly bring in, and try to create an environment for them to excel, in the classroom and on the soccer field.”

Snow was a standout defender at Indiana from 1996 to 1999, winning NCAA championships his junior and senior seasons. Yeagley, who won a record 544 games and six national titles at Indiana while mentoring more than a dozen top coaches (including Caleb Porter, who last month won the NCAA men's title with Akron), had a profound impact on his future.

“I always had a passion for the game, and Coach Yeagley always tried to get me to [become a coach],” said Snow, who spoke with Yeagley in the past week as he prepared to take the UCLA job. “He said, and I'll never forget, that I had the itch to do it and be great. … He was the first one to say you can't fight the itch.”

He grew immensely under Ellis, and said what he gained from her “would seem unlimited.”

“She's always given me the opportunity to be who I am,” he said. “One of the biggest things I can take from her: From the first days, she gave me responsibilities I could take and embrace and make my own. Working with the backs, recruiting, scheduling -- whatever it was, she entrusted me with responsibilities I wasn't necessarily expecting her to entrust me with at the time. And it was one of the biggest things she could have done.”

ELLIS' NEW POST: Ellis, 44, who posted a 229-45-14 record in 12 seasons and took the Bruins to eight NCAA College Cup final fours and three title games, will work with former U.S. national team coach and captain April Heinrichs to restore the luster to a program diminished by its failures to qualify for the U-17 World Cup, proceed beyond the quarterfinals at the U-20 World Cup, and win the CONCACAF championship -- requiring a playoff victory over Italy to reach next summer's Women's World Cup in Germany.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said the additions of the women's technical positions had nothing to do with results, and Heinrichs said the goal was to “develop the technical skills and implement tactics to put more and more complete players on the field in more positions.”

The Americans, along with the Scandinavians and subsequently China, were a dominant force in the women's game until the turn of the century, but the gap between the powers and everybody else has closed. Brazil in the past decade became a powerhouse, North and South Korea made huge advances, Mexico has become competitive, and what had been the secondary European teams have emerged as forces in the game.

“I think in a lot of respects, all of our women's sports teams had a 50-yard head start in a 100-yard dash,” Heinrichs said. “In the last 10, maybe 15 years, those countries spent time and energy, and now the resources, across all of our sports. These countries have caught up.

“It's a matter of us now saying, 'OK, where do we need to go now?' That's what today's announcement is about: What do we need to do to develop players to compete at the national team level.”

Ellis said she was excited to be “on the cutting edge of moving this game and the women's game forward” and “working with the soccer community and forging relationships and really getting an encompassing feeling where we want to take this game as we move into a new era.”

Heinrichs will work with U.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage -- neither will report to the other -- and oversee the under-20 and under-18 national teams. Ellis will direct the U-17 and U-15 teams and the U-14 identification process. Both could, for the short term, coach these teams.

Heinrichs, 46, who has been working with the U.S. Olympic Committee after coaching UC Irvine's women's team in 2006, was head coach of the U.S. women's national team from 2000 through 2005, guiding it to a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, third place at the 2003 Women's World Cup and gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The former University of North Carolina star is one of the most intense personalities in the women's game and belongs in the Mia Hamm/Michelle Akers/Kristine Lilly/Julie Foudy/Joy Fawcett/Brandi Chastain/Carin Gabarra/Tiffeny Milbrett stratosphere of legends.

The English-born Ellis, who comes from a respected coaching family, played at William & Mary and was head coach at Illinois before taking the reigns at UCLA in 1999. She quickly established the Bruins as one of the standard-bearers in the college women's game, helping to develop a number of top players, including current national team pool players Lauren Cheney, Tina DiMartino and Sydney Leroux.