By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s and women’s soccer programs are in limbo until a new director of soccer can be hired.
Last week, athletic director Dexter Irvin announced that the department’s two coaching positions have been combined into a Director of Soccer, who will oversee the two programs. Currently, the women’s job is a full-time paid position while the men’s job is a part-time paid job.
During the 2012-13 seasons, the men’s soccer team was coached by Jeffrey “Ziggy” Korytoski and the women’s team by Unity Beddingfield. But both first-year head coaches had their one-year contracts expire May 31 while Irvin waited for the approval to combine the positions into one.
Irvin initially took his request to the Hawaii Board of Regents, but he was later informed the move only needed the approval of the UH-Manoa president, M.R.C. Greenwood. Last week, Irvin said Greenwood approved the position and the UHH athletic department would move ahead to fill it.
“We’ll advertise in state and try to expedite the hiring process,” Irvin said.
The UHH soccer seasons start in early September, leaving little time to hire the Director of Soccer.
It appears Korytoski, 36, who leaves today for a professional coaching job in Guatemala, may not be in the mix for the vacant UHH position. He signed a one-year contract with the Antigua Central Guatemala Football Club, and the team’s season begins later this month.
Korytoski worked with the Antigua soccer club before and the team had “a lot of success.”
“They made me an offer to coach and since I really knew nothing about what was going to happen here (at UHH), I had to take it,” said Korytoski, who in his first season led the Vulcans to a 5-8-2 record, including 5-7-2 in the Pacific West Conference. The Vuls also finished strong, going 5-1-1 in their final seven matches.
“I really enjoyed my time here with the student-athletes,” he said. “I think we changed the culture and the players started to believe in themselves and that they could win at the Division II level. I’m also extremely proud of the things the players did in the community and how the community responded to them.
“I enjoyed my time at UHH and I think we stabilized the men’s program. The program has a great future if the university will invest in it. We have 55 to 60 student-athletes who can make a difference. UHH is not a Division I program, it’s Division II and should be all about the student-athletes’ experiences at that level.”
Korytoski said he leaves the potential new UHH men’s coach with a solid nucleus to build on — with 19 returnees, including eight starters, and eight to 12 recruits.
“The new coach deserves to come in and have a chance to be successful,” Korytoski said. “If the school will invest into the program, it should see a great return in what those student-athletes can do in class, on the field and in the community.”
Despite taking the coaching job in Guatemala, Korytoski said he’d like to return to the Big Island in the future.
“It’s a great place to live,” he said. “If an opportunity opens up, I’d love to come back — whether it’s in one year, three years or whenever.”
Korytoski and his wife, Mayumi, have a 4-year-old son, Kaisei.
“We consider Hilo our home,” he said.
In her first season with the Vulcans, Beddingfield led her young team to 5-12 record, including 3-11 in the PacWest. The squad has 20 returnees and four newcomers — two junior college players and two prep players — for the 2013-14 season.
“I felt it took us some time last year to find our groove,” she said. “But I feel the team learned from every game and we became more competitive as the season moved along.
“I really liked coaching the team and the people in the community. The players were great to work with and the community made us feel like family.”
Beddingfield did not say if she would apply for the Director of Soccer position.
Coaching changes have been the norm since the University of Hawaii at Hilo introduced its soccer programs in 2006. The men’s team has had five coaches while the women’s squad has had four.
2006: Travis Clarke Paul Regrutto
2007: Travis Clarke Gordon Inouye
2008: Travis Clarke Cam Camarena
2009: Cam Camarena Cam Camarena
2010: Marc Miranda Bryan Greene
2011: Marc Miranda Bryan Greene
2012: Unity Beddingfield Ziggy Korytoski