A native of Detroit, Michigan, Jay Vidovich, 2016 NC Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, first made his mark in soccer circles by earning all-state honors at New Canaan (Conn.) High School. His college playing experience included one year with the 1978 nationally-ranked Indiana Hoosiers and three seasons with Ohio Wesleyan, where he served as captain for the 1982 NCAA semi-finalists.
His coaching career began at the University of Denver, where he served as varsity assistant for the 1982 Pioneers, NAIA Regional Division II champions. In 1983, he would move down the road to Regis (CO) College as an assistant and would follow that with two years (1984-85) in the same role at Ohio Wesleyan, his alma mater, where he would work with a team that would rank in the top ten nationally. It would be a sign of things to come that during Jay’s first four years of coaching he would have a part in developing seven All-Americans and 18 All-West or All-Mideast nominees. That knack for helping to shape such talent would not go unnoticed, and soccer in North Carolina was about to become the beneficiary.
In 1986, Vidovich would begin his long career with Wake Forest, first as an assistant to incoming coach Walt Chyzowych, a legend in American soccer. The two men shared the sideline until Walt’s untimely death in 1994, and in that time, with his mentor’s guidance, Jay turned out a number of outstanding players, including several that represented the U.S. internationally. He would become head coach of the Deacon men in 1994.
In the next 21 years, Vidovich would lead a program that would rank as one of the ACC’s finest. His overall record of 272-121-50 was highlighted by a 195-68-38 mark in the last 15 seasons (2000-2014). The Deacons would reach the NCAA’s in 14 of those years, and would be a top seed in three. They would also become only the ninth school in NCAA history to advance to soccer’s final four, the College Cup, four straight times (2006-2009), with the highlight being 2007. In that year Wake Forest compiled a 22-2-2 record, gaining the most wins in school history and capped the year off with wins over Virginia Tech 2-0 and Ohio State 2-1 for the Deacon’s first national title.
In 2009, Wake become the first school to have four players selected in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft and by the beginning of 2010 they had 21 players competing on a professional level. There have been so many success stories that mentioning all names becomes impossible, but one that should be noted is that of Goalkeeper William Hesmer, WFU’s first-ever NSCAA first team All-America in 2003 and a 2014 inductee into the NC Soccer Hall of Fame.
Vidovich himself would garner a number of awards in his time with Wake Forest. Among them, he was ACC Coach of the Year five times (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009) and National Coach of the year in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, he would also receive the Chyzowych Achievement Award, capping an incredible year for soccer and the Deacons.
After the 2014 season, Jay Vidovich left Wake Forest and took coaching duties involving the MLS Portland Timbers. But a short time later, in late 2015, it was announced that he would take the head men’s coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh in … you guessed it… the ACC. It is not likely to be long before we start hearing about an up and coming team made up of rapidly improving players in the Steel City. Welcome back, Coach. And welcome to the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.