Consistency, cohesiveness and success were the hallmarks of John Rennie’s program during his 29 years at the helm of the Duke University men’s soccer team. His impact on Atlantic Coast Conference men’s soccer will forever be recognized and appreciated. Moving to Duke in 1979, he quickly established his program as one of the top men’s soccer programs in the nation. Overall, he led his squad to a total of five NCAA College Cups (1982, 1986, 1992, 1995 and 2004), earning two runner-up finishes (1982 and 1995) and one national title (1986), Duke’s first national championship in any sport. John and the Blue Devils also accumulated five ACC Championships, including back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.
John finished his 36-year coaching career with a 454-207-49 overall record, a winning percentage of .706, and with a 410-161-35 record (.674 winning percentage) in 29 seasons at Duke. At the time of his retirement, his 454 wins ranked fifth all-time among Division I head coaches and 13th among coaches across all three divisions.
Duke advanced to the NCAA Tournament 20 times under John. In 1982, he took an undefeated team to the national championship match before losing to Indiana, 2-1, in eight overtimes, the longest match in NCAA history up to that point. The Blue Devils enjoyed two undefeated regular seasons, in 1982 and 1999.
John was consistently honored for his accomplishments. He was voted National Coach of the Year in 1982, ACC Coach of the Year in 1980, 1983, 1987, 1997 and 1999, and South Region Coach of the Year in 1982, 1983 and 1997.
John’s players were also honored, with six players earning national collegiate player of the year recognition, including Joe Ulrich (1982), Mike Jeffries (1983), Tom Kain (1985), John Kerr (1986), Jay Heaps (1998) and Ali Curtis (2000). Duke had 31 All-America selections and four Academic All-America choices during John’s tenure. Kain, a 1986 graduate, was Duke’s first four-time All-America selection. Jason Kreis, a 1995 graduate, became the all-time leading scorer in MLS history when he retired from playing professionally.
John’s work and influence extended beyond Duke University. He worked closely with U.S. Club Soccer, serving on its executive board, and as a member of the USSF technical committee, which handles player-development issues for the organization. He organized and was the first chairman of the NCAA Division I Soccer Coaches Committee, formed for the nationwide development of Division I soccer. He is a former USSF national coaching staff member and served as the head coach of the South Region Olympic Development Program. He is involved with youth soccer in Durham and served for a period of time as the director of coaching for the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association. He is also a co-founder and former president of the Triangle Futbol Club.
A 1967 graduate of Temple University, John was successful as a coach before moving to Duke, spending one year at Southeastern Massachusetts (now U Mass-Dartmouth) and six at Columbia University. In 1978, Columbia won the Ivy League title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. John earned New York Region Coach of the Year honors.
John was also an accomplished athlete. As a senior at Chatham (N.J.) High School, he set a school record with 30 goals in 15 games. John continued his level of achievement at Temple University, where he lettered in three sports (baseball, tennis and soccer). Unfortunately, his playing career came to an end when he suffered a knee injury prior to his senior year.
John credits Duke’s success to his players and assistant coaches. One of his former players, John Kerr, who later followed John as Duke’s head coach, said, “John Rennie is an astute tactician, a great motivator, an unequaled recruiter and a fierce competitor. He is an absolute icon in the college game and his success at Duke University speaks for itself. His best attribute is that he really cares about his players now and in the future. He is a real leader of men and he has been a fabulous teacher and friend.” Ali Curtis, 1999 Hermann Trophy winner and 2000 Missouri Athletic Club award winner, said about John, “John was and continues to be a positive influence in my life. He is a teacher and role model and I am grateful to have him in my life. Duke soccer was my second family. Every day, I developed as a soccer player and as a person as a result of the Duke soccer program.”
John was held in high respect by other college coaches. In recognition of John’s completing 25 years as coach at Duke, Anson Dorrance applauded his accomplishments with the following comment, “Congratulations on a wonderful career thus far. When you joined this conference you elevated all of us. Your tactical ideas are still a part of my soccer understanding.”
John was born in Chatham, N.J., and is married to the former Kathy Redden. They have two children, Theodore John and Grace.