Several players from the University of Northern Colorado soccer team have announced their intention to retire from the program after coach Ed McCaffrey’s first season on the sidelines.
Nine players announced their intention to leave UNC before the holidays. That number has risen to 12 recently, including kicker Ben Raybon, linebacker Jace Bobo, wide receiver Jaren Mitchell and offensive lineman Kyle Ergenbright. They were all starters this season.
“I just feel like it’s in my best interest to look elsewhere for a better opportunity,” Jaire Moore, who returned, told the Greeley Tribune in December.
All but one leaving players were recruited by the staff of former coach Earnest Collins. Reserve quarterback Andrew Brister, son of ex-Denver Broncos QB Bubby Brister, is the only player recruited under McCaffrey.
The players who shared public statements about their departure kept things short and vague, focusing on the privilege of furthering their education and sports careers. They often thanked the coaches, support staff and teammates, while sharing very little about their reasoning.
“I want to thank all my coaches,” Bobo wrote. “Coach (Scott) Darnell for trusting me this whole season and giving me the opportunity to be a leader; coach (Daryl) Moe for giving me the chance to thrive and just a text message away; coach (Jimmy) Spencer for contacting me on and off the field and allowing me to speak my mind; Coach (Ed) McCaffrey for naming me team captain and respecting the path I decided to take. I have decided to enter the transfer portal as a transfer graduate.”
Bobo was the only player to mention McCaffrey explicitly.
Rumors were circulating about the unhappiness of players. Many felt unhappy with the culture and were not appreciated. The players themselves shared limited information, despite the offer of anonymity, due to concerns about their recruitment, professionalism and possible retaliation.
However, loved ones of players spoke to the Tribune about the concerns. The parent of a transitioning student-athlete said it was hard to watch their child and his teammates feel unappreciated, especially after the excitement over McCaffrey’s appointment and a seemingly positive start.
Several players, especially on the attacking side, felt they were not reaching their potential under the coaching staff, they said.
Close relatives said they were shocked to see how few opportunities were given to some players, especially those who previously provided good grades for the Bears. They claimed the staff showed favoritism, and it wasn’t always based on who delivered the best results for the team. In addition, they criticized McCaffrey’s decision to let his son, graduate QB Dylan McCaffrey, play for most of the year, even in matches where he was not efficient.
The lovers said they did not believe McCaffrey would pull his son. One fan said they heard an assistant coach say the same thing during a game.
However, a family member said players’ complaints were directed at the coaches, not Dylan McCaffrey himself.
“It’s sad how many guys don’t like Ed,” said the first parent. “He’s all about himself and his family.”
McCaffrey said in a statement to the Tribune that he has an “open door policy” and met with players who requested a meeting and answered all phone calls from players, regardless of whether the topic was about football. The staff encourages players to speak directly with coaches, but McCaffrey said he has also spent “countless hours” meeting and speaking with parents.
The sources who spoke to the Tribune disagreed. The first parent said their student-athlete never met McCaffrey, despite help, and neither did some of their teammates.
“It’s unfortunate that many unlucky players, usually upset about their playing time or the amount of their tuition fees, simply switch instead of trying to work out a situation with their coaches,” McCaffrey wrote in a statement to the Tribune. “But often a coach has to give a player a really honest answer that they just don’t want to hear. Unfortunately, not every player will be a starter, or have a full scholarship at FCS level. It just can’t be done.”
Most of the concerns weren’t about playing time and money, the next of kin said. Instead, it was the environment. They said there has been a lack of preparation, dwindling investment, secrecy and nepotism that players and their inner circles hope will be remedied. In addition, concerns have been raised about inconsistency with the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocol.
“The culture is worse now than it was with Coach Collins. They lacked talent at Collins, but at least they looked well prepared,” said the first parent. “There are real problems in this program that need to be exposed. These kids deserve a coach who is really invested in making them better on and off the field; not someone who sees this as a hobby, a part-time gig.”
Where UNC Compares to Other Programs
Ten UNC players have been transferred after Collins’ first season, according to the UNC compliance agency.
The office also said there were about 80 Big Sky players in the portal, with Idaho State — which recently hired a new coach — and Northern Arizona leading the pack at 13 when the numbers were provided a week and a half ago.
Montana, the state of Montana and eastern Washington led the conference with only two players in the transfer portal at the time. These were some of the top shows in the Big Sky this season, with the state of Montana falling to the state of North Dakota in the FCS championship.
Sacramento State, which went undefeated in the league, had four players in the portal, according to UNC compliance.
In addition, Colorado State had 24 players in the transfer portal as of Wednesday.
The University of Colorado had 25, including star player Jarek Broussard, who rushed for a team lead of 661 yards and two touchdowns in 2021. Broussard’s best game came in the Buffs’ season opener against UNC when he scored 98 yards and one. achieved .
“We are very proud that at UNC we have the fewest number of players entering the transfer portal of a Division I program in the state of Colorado,” said McCaffrey. “We wish every former bear who chooses to leave the program the best of luck and hope they get the best out of their future endeavours.”
In addition to the transfers, UNC is expected to lose another dozen players due to graduation. The program signed 15 players in its early signing period in December, including four three-star recruits. It may begin signing additional recruits Feb. 2 through April 1, according to the National Letter of Intent website.
McCaffrey said he understands that changes are always happening and supports the transfer rules, which help student athletes find a school that can meet their academic, athletic and personal needs.
It will not be easy to get players out of the program, but UNC has benefited from the inbound transfers and expects to fill the roster in the coming months.
“There are many changes that take place in the life of a student-athlete that can be a good reason to change schools,” McCaffrey said. “Coaches change, systems change, college majors change, financial situations change, family health changes, just to name a few. While it makes our job as coaches significantly more difficult in terms of constantly adjusting our rosters, it’s in the best interest of the athletes we’re hired for.”
The Bears went 3-8 overall and 2-6 in Big Sky play in 2021. They will kick off the 2022 season at home on September 3 against Houston Baptist.
UNC players in the transfer portal
- Jaaire Moore – red shirt junior running back
- Played in four matches
- Recorded 38 rushing yards and 22 receiving yards
- Chase Lanckriet – sophomore tight end
- from Windsor
- Eight games played in 2021 for 11 receiving yards on four catches
- Had 263 yards on 17 receptions and two touchdowns in 2019
- Signed Division II Lindenwood
- Ben Raybon – red shirt junior kicker/punter
- Two field goals made of 50 yards or longer
- Set the UNC program record for longest field goal at 57 yards
- Recorded 2,053 kickoff yards
- Went 20-for-20 on PATs
- Signed with Mississippi State from the SEC
- Kyle Ergenbright – Red Shirt Junior Offensive Lineman
- Started with 10 games in 2021; was not available for one
- All 11 games started in 2018
- Missed part of the 2019 season due to injury
- Andrew Brister – freshman quarterback
- Was recruited by Ed McCaffrey
- Son of former Denver Broncos quarterback Bubby Brister
- Featured once in Houston Baptist win and threw one pass for nine yards
- Signed with Louisiana Tech
- Kevin Williams Jr. – red shirt junior offensive lineman
- Two games played in 2021
- Started in nine games in 2019
- Played in 11 games and started eight in 2018
- Signed with the Big Ten’s Nebraska
- Jace Bobo – junior linebacker red shirt
- Started all 11 games in 2021 and was named captain
- Was in the FCS top 10 tacklers early in the season
- Stayed a top tacker in the Big Sky all season
- Finished with 87 tackles, six for a loss and three interceptions
- All-Big Sky Honorable Mention Received
- Jaren Mitchell – Red Shirt Sophomore Wide Receiver
- Played in all 11 games in 2021
- Played in all 12 games in 2019 and started in nine
- Had a team-leading 740 yards and 48 catches for two touchdowns in 2019
- Set UNC Division I freshman record for yards in a game with 242 in Northern Dakota in 2019
- Finished the 2021 season with 224 receiving yards and one touchdown
- Chris Pope – sophomore defensive back
- Played in seven games and recorded one tackle in 2021
- Played in three games in 2019 and had two tackles
- Red Shirt in 2018
- Xavier Laing – junior linebacker red shirt
- Played in five games in 2021
- Played in 10 games in 2019 and had seven tackles
- Dominick Pallotto – offensive lineman
- Not on the selection for 2021
- Listed on the 2020 roster, prior to the cancellation of COVID-19
- Red Shirt in 2018
- Greg Laday – Sophomore Defending Defender
- Played in all 11 games in 2021
- Recorded 38 tackles and three pass breakups
- Had eight tackles and 47 kick-return yards in 2019