Coach Michael Berticelli was born in Lewiston, Maine, and attended the University of Maine in Farmington, earning a BA in English in 1973 and a Master’s degree in 1976. While attending UMF, he played basketball and soccer, captaining the latter in his senior year. For his efforts there, along with his distinguished twenty seasons coaching collegiate soccer, Michael was inducted into the UMF Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. UMF’s citation makes reference to his “exceptionally generous contribution” to the game of soccer, a phrase that seems to have followed him wherever he coached. It certainly is a cornerstone in our recognition of his enshrinement into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame, Class of 2017.
There would be a six-year stint for Berticelli at Old Dominion (1984-1989), where he posted a 76-27-6 record. He led the Monarchs to two Sun Belt conference titles and to their first-ever NCAA tourney appearance. They were also ranked in the top 20 nationally his last five years. He would also coach at Notre Dame, where he would compile a 104-80-19 mark over a decade (1990-1999) and would have the Irish in the postseason three times (1993, 1994, 1996) while competing in the Midwest Collegiate and Big East conferences.
But it is at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a program also being inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame this year into its National Champions Hall of Honor, where soccer people remember Michael Berticelli best. He was only at UNC Greensboro for four seasons – but what a time it was.
UNC Greensboro was a fledgling Division III program that Berticelli took over in 1980, one where chairs and benches served as so-called stadium surroundings. Indeed, North Carolina was just beginning to get familiar with a sport in which national excellence would soon be the norm. So it can be said that what was accomplished was a benchmark. The Spartans would win two NCAA Division III titles when they defeated Bethany (WV) 2-1 in 1982 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CA) 3-2 in 1983, with both games being played in Greensboro. Between the suddenly heightened interest and the novelty of the setting, it struck a chord. Soccer was here to stay and Coach Michael Berticelli was, even if he didn’t realize it at the time, the chief trailblazer.
Sadly, Berticelli would pass away in 2000 at the young age of 48. It is instructive that soon after his passing several groups chose ways to remember him, a testament to his impact.
At Notre Dame, the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament was set up shortly after his death. It invites four highly-rated teams for a weekend of competition in early September and is recognized nationally for its excellence.
Also, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America established the Mike Berticelli Excellence in Coaching Award, presented annually to a member of the NSCAA Academy in recognition of excellence in coaching education. Berticelli was extremely involved with this organization and by 2000 was serving as its Vice President of Education.
Finally, it should be noted that Michael was inducted into the UNC Greensboro Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of its Charter Class on September 29, 2000. He had laid the foundation for sustaining a great program. It would win more Division III titles and then move on to compete well in Division I.
A great coach is said to be a great teacher. Michael Berticelli left us with a widely-circulated poem called The Youth Soccer Coach that exemplifies this fact. The last lines, as addressed to those named in the title, are as follows: “I hope you’re concerned, but not really offended. It’s the need for more skill that I have defended. You’re giving your all, from the good of your heart. Why not make sure the kids get the right start?”