Thursday, October 13, 2022

Brad Hauter - The Exit & Entrance Interview

2022 - Brad at game against Grinnell (Page Cotton on far left)
Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
In the fall of 1993, I received a letter from Page Cotton, the coach of DePauw University's men's soccer team asking me to consider the university, and to consider trying out for the team. While I did, ultimately, attend the university, I did not play for Coach Cotton; at least not for the university's varsity team. I did, however, take a health class with Coach Cotton where I received credit for playing soccer. I mean, I had to pay tuition for the class, but as someone who played soccer nearly their entire life, it was the easiest class I took that semester. Plus, I was able to be "coached" by Coach Cotton. 

I tell that story because the list of DePauw men's soccer coaches is a very short list. In 1966, Charles P. Erdmann started the program and coached for three years. The DePauw natatorium now bears his name as he was the swimming coach, as well as the baseball and tennis coach during his tenure. So he was an important figure in the University. In 1969, a 22-year old Page Cotton served as head coach while Mr. Erdmann was on sabbatical and proceeded to stay in the position (among others) for the next 39 years. When Coach Cotton retired in 2008, one of his former players took over the reigns. 

In the nearly 30 years since I first received that letter from Coach Cotton, I have known just two head coaches at my alma mater. Later this month, the University will begin the process of hiring just their fourth men's soccer coach as Brad Hauter steps down from his role that was passed down to him from Coach Cotton as DPU head coach and begins a new role as Vice President of Marketing & Club Growth at Indy Eleven. Brad has always been very helpful to me in learning the game from an on-field and off-field perspective, and has also been free with his time on this site, having participated in both my Soccer Life series and the Top 5 series. After he was announced as leaving DePauw and joining the Indy Eleven front office staff, I asked Coach Hauter if we could reflect on his transition from DePauw to Indy Eleven. The below questions and article serves as the Game Beckons' Exit & Entrance Interview of Brad Hauter. 

You Say Goodbye

Game Beckons: What is your memory of your first game as a player at DePauw University? 
Brad Hauter: It was against nationally ranked OWU [Ohio Wesleyan University] at their place. I was the back up for opening weekend to a Junior. He missed the bus and I started the next weekend and held the spot until I graduated. Humbling to get your first start because someone missed the bus, and you can't pick your opportunities, but you can make the most of them. 

Brad would take that opportunity and would become:
"a four-year starting goalkeeper and two-time MVP. The Tigers compiled a 44W-16L-4D record in his four seasons including a 15-1-1 mark in 1986 for a school-record .912 winning percentage. That season, Hauter finished with a 0.61 goals against average and allowed just 10 goals and recorded a school-record 12 shutouts. He totaled 33 shutouts in his career." 

GB: What is your memory of your first game as a coach at DPU?
BH: Excitement. [It] was an amazing honor to take over after Page. A 2-0 win [against Holy Cross]. We did not have a natural scorer and just had to grind out goals, so a 2-0 win was a surprise.  

Brad and Page Cotton in 2010
Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
Not counting this season, which is ongoing, Brad rode that first win to a 15-year career and a 154W-62L-35D record (entering this season). During his tenure, his teams have never had a losing record or a negative goal differential, with the closest to either of those things happening was the 2017 season, when the team finished 6-6-4 and a +1 GD. The two seasons prior to that anomaly, DPU made it to the NCAA Division III Championship, where the 2015 squad made it to the round of 16. 

When you have that kind of success, even at a Division III level, players can and will get noticed by professional teams. Indy Eleven fans know about Adrian Ables, who was a 2016 DPU graduate and a 4-year letter winner; as well as Nate Sprenkel who was a 2012 DPU graduate and a 3-year letter winner, and was the 2nd player announced (or 3rd player if your Baba Omosegbon's family) in Indy Eleven club history. However, they aren't the only ones. 

"Tony Halterman, Keagan Angevin, and Jay Klein were others that played pro. Keagan and Jay played in NISA for New Jersey, and Keagan also played for Napa Valley in NISA and was on the first USL Two team in Fort Wayne. We had a couple guys get small offers to play PDL Pro, but the job [offer] out of DePauw was too good." 

That will sometimes happen with a good education.

GB: What do you hope your players have learned from you?
BH: There are a few things I am unbending on: character, work ethic, and accountability. Hopefully they lived that as part of the program and will carry it forward. 

Work ethic. From a guy that has what seems like 20 jobs. Makes sense.

GB: What was it like being able to coach, and coach with, your son Christian Hauter (DPU class of 2020, 3-year letter winner, and spent time as an assistant coach under Brad)?
BH: It was a great experience and incredible opportunity to continue to be involved in his development as a player and a man. Plus we survived it and have a great relationship. 

GB: What do you think you are going to miss most about coaching at DPU?
BH: Working with the players on and off the field. This is a unique time, and this generation has more challenges than any generation prior. The ability to listen and be a sounding board for players will be the thing I will miss the most. 

Photo Credit: Striggo Photography
GB: As just the third head coach in DPU's program history, after taking the reigns from Page Cotton, what do you hope the university finds in the fourth head coach in program history? Have you offered advice on your potential successor?
BH: Good question. I hope the next individual can elevate the program another notch, be in the role for a number of years, and be a good fit for the players. DePauw does a great job in their searches and this will be a highly sought after job. I am confident they will find the best fit and they do not need any guidance from me.

GB:As an alum and soon-to-be former coach of DPU, how involved do you see yourself in the future?
BH: I will be a fan for life and a massive cheerleader. 

As a fellow DPU alum, it makes me happy that the men's soccer program has been able to have such consistency in that role for the past 53 years. The soccer program has been coached by good men who led by example and only wanted the best for their players, on and off the field. As Coach Hauter stated, I'm sure that the University will hire someone who will do a great job, but they have some very large shoes to fill.

And I Say Hello 

Over the years, there have been DePauw connections to Indy Eleven. Obviously, there were the players Sprenkel and Ables. There's my personal connection. There are, and have been, others who are graduates or had a connection to DePauw, like Senior Director of Ticket Sales Mike Henn, Drew Donovan, who was the Corporate Partnerships Manager, Guy-Jo Gordon who had worked at DePauw prior to his time with Indy Eleven, and Nipun Chopra who is now an assistant professor at DePauw, but was an early grassroots media contributor of Indy Eleven. Just to name a few. DePauw isn't a very big school, but its alumni are continuing to find ways to put their stamp on the World's Game and Indiana's Team. Brad will officially take over his role with Indy Eleven once his season with DePauw comes to an end. If the team is unable to make the postseason, that last game will be a home game on Saturday October 29th at 2:30 P.M., at which point Brad will officially begin his day-to-day duties as Indy Eleven's Vice President of Marketing & Club Growth. 

GB: What exactly does that title mean? Are there metrics to know whether you're successful other than more season tickets? Before you are able to dig into the historical data on what has worked or not, what preliminary ideas do you have to try to achieve club growth?
BH: Titles are interesting to me; coach, assistant coach, VP, etc. Irrelevant in my mind. I get to join an amazing club, and in that capacity I see my role strengthening the club in a variety of areas. Season tickets and attendance are traditional metrics, but I want to see this club grow in EVERY capacity; on the field, in the community, in fan engagement, etc. I have a number of initiatives I want to bring to life that are a blend of my soccer, entertainment, and marketing experiences. Ideas that I believe will separate us from every professional club in the US. It's a heavy lift, but I'm excited. I believe the eyes of the US soccer world will be on Indy in 2023! 

As to be expected with a professional sports team, Indy Eleven has had front office staff that were players, some at a fairly high level, including Employee #1, Molly Kruger. However, I believe Brad is the first front office person with significant professional player AND coaching experience. 

GB: How do you think that will benefit you in your role and how will it benefit the club?
BH: I didn't think about that. Interesting. I think it will be a great benefit to me in this role in that it provides me perspective from a variety of angles. The benefit to the club is that my life has been spent being involved in all levels of soccer, and as we work to make Indy Eleven the premier club in the United States, those relationships and experiences are invaluable. 

GB: How involved do you hope to be in helping shape the new stadium to facilitate current fans and grow the club?
BH: I have 100% trust in the team [that has been] put together to layout, design, and bring this stadium to life. Facilitating fans, fan experiences, and club growth have been a foundational part of the discussions. I'll be involved as needed, but in all honesty the team assembled is amazing and needs no help from me.

GB: You seem to do a good job of being engaged with Indy fans and the grassroots media on social media. How do you hope to continue that & use those outlets to help grow the club?
BH: The tv show we have produced for the last 8 years [Coop Dreams, and 7 years of Junk'd before that] started with no fans and no social media followers. We grew the fans and followers to around 200,000 in that time. We did it through honest engagements and connections many of which were on social media. The lessons learned over the last 8 years are invaluable here. 

Photo Credit: Don Thompson
What do you want fans to know about your transition from college coach and color commentator to VP of Marketing & Club Growth (and color commentator...)?
BH: I have had the fortune to wear a number of hats in my life that I fully believed were all a part of preparing me for this role. At the heart of it... I am an Indy soccer guy! 
  • I worked camps and clinics with the families that started and grew soccer in Indiana, 
  • I played my club ball in Indy,
  • I played my high school soccer in Indy,
  • I played my college ball near Indy, and 
  • Part of my pro career had me playing in Ft Wayne and Indy.
Additionally, 22 of my 28 years as a college coach were spent here in Indiana. As a kid, I grew up watching the Indy Daredevils on a black and white TV dreaming of one day becoming a pro player. For a kid in Indy in the late 70's and early 80's, playing pro was a dream with no path on how to get there. What Indy Eleven has done, for boys and girls in Indy, is to create a path for them to fulfill their dreams. I am forever indebted to Indy soccer as it has shaped EVERY single part of who I am. The drive I have to grow this club and its involvement in this community is incredible. I feel blessed and humbled to have this opportunity and cannot wait to get started.

Awhile back, I wrote about how the game was beckoning me. In that article, I described a passage from Gwendolyn Oxenham's book Finding the Game, from when they were in Italy talking to a writer, Cristiano, who read from his book and then helps them to understand his meaning. As I re-read Brad's responses to my questions, it felt like the passage that I enjoyed has been a theme of Brad's life too. As a reminder, here is the passage (emphasis mine):
"He pours us grappa and translates the meaning, hands gesturing, "It is a story about an old man who imagines what he'll say to his grandson...that there is a god for the soccer fields, a kind of magic. Not the big ones - the small ones in the provinces." Head cocked to the side, he smiles, shyly like he's telling us something personal, emotional: "Soccer will give you much more than you can give it."
Based upon Brad's involvement in soccer in Indiana, from player to coach to color commentator to his newest role with Indy Eleven, it feels like Brad has embarked on an endless quest to return as much to soccer as it has given him. His next step is to try and grow the game and Indy Eleven. Literally. It's his job title.

"My last 3-4 decades have been spent in soccer and brand building. When I saw the [Indy Eleven job] posting, it was the first time in my life these two worlds have connected. As an Indy guy, I’m passionate about building opportunities for kids in this state and Indy Eleven has a deep desire to grow the game throughout the state. Having a V.P. of Marketing & Club Growth that has been immersed in Indiana soccer for 4 decades and has been involved with national brands for the past 25 years, [the position] simply spoke to me." 

As a DePauw graduate, I'm disappointed that Brad will be stepping down from his head coaching position where he has led a very successful program over the past 15 seasons. However, as he stated in his interview with Greg Rakestraw on Soccer Saturday and above to me, the concept of his new position at Indy Eleven seems ideally suited for him and his past experiences. 

I look forward to seeing what ideas he has, and how they will begin to materialize once he gets started.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m happy he will be with Indy Eleven and not another club