The Walt Chyzowych Fund, a charitable fund of the United Soccer Coaches Foundation, announced today that legendary coach and soccer executive Al Miller will receive the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award January 12 in ceremonies during the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago.
The fund each year awards the lifetime achievement award, as well as the Walt Chyzowych Distinguished Playing Award, which this year is being presented to former U.S. National Team great Michelle Akers. (See separate news release) The former University of Central Florida star became the first great female international player and led the USA to two women’s soccer world championships.
“I am honored to receive this prestigious Award” Miller said. “Walt Chyzowych was a great friend and asset to our sport. I have so many wonderful memories of our conversations regarding moving the game ahead. Soccer was a labor of love for the both of us. I loved him like a brother during my years in Philadelphia. It would take me a month to tell all the Walt stories that we shared back in those days. I admire and thank of all the coaches who have kept his name alive with this award and am humbled to join the list of recipients.”
The Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award and the Walt Chyzowych Distinguished Playing Career Award will be presented Saturday, Jan. 12 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. Formal presentations will take place at 4 p.m. in Hyatt Regency hotel ballrooms B, C, & D. The 2019 Chyzowych award ceremony and reception is sponsored by Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Chicago Fire.
Distinguished college career
Al Miller burst onto the soccer scene at East Stroudsburg State College, where he earned second team All-America recognition in 1958 and 1959 and later was inducted into that school’s athletic hall of fame in 1995.
Miller’s first collegiate soccer coaching position at New Paltz State University (1961-66) where his team was a finalist in the 1963 NCAA Atlantic Coast regional tournament, and then won the event in 1965. His New Paltz teams won three New York Conference championships in six years and he was elected to the school’s hall of fame in 2008.
In 1967, Miller was named head soccer coach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, a post he would hold through 1972. Two of Miller’s recruits followed him to Hartwick: Timo Liekoski (Chyzowych Award winner in 2016) and Terry Fisher (former college and professional coach), the latter now CEO of Washington State Youth Soccer.
At Hartwick, Miller and Fisher met Francisco Marcos and Alec Papadakis and all four would go on to long successful careers that helped shape soccer history across the entire United States. Miller’s record at Hartwick was 64-12-3 and included a 1970 NCAA final appearance and a 14-1 record. He was inducted into the Hartwick College Hall of Fame in 1995.
Hartwick College: A national powerhouse
Under Miller’s leadership, soccer at Hartwick became a major college sport and the school grew
into a national powerhouse. Hartwick was the first collegiate team to tour Europe and the school’s home games at Elmore Field were among the first nationally to charge admission and be broadcast on radio. Oneonta became known as “Soccer City USA” and was the home of the first Soccer Hall of Fame that honored players, coaches and other luminaries not only in USA international and domestic competition, but also those who were leaders in the game as coaches at all levels, as well as those who distinguished themselves in officiating.
Pioneering indoor soccer
Miller’s Hartwick teams also hosted some of the nation’s first collegiate indoor tournaments, which attracted teams from all over the Eastern seaboard to Hartwick’s Binder Gymnasium where team manager Thom Meredith first honed his emerging organizational and event management skills.
Among the many players who played for and were positively influenced by the leadership and character of Al Miller and his legacy at Hartwick (as well as by fellow Chyzowych Award winners Liekoski and Jim Lennox in 2013) were Eddie Austin, Glenn Myernick, Tony Elia, Dominic Kinnear, Dave D’Errico, Billy Gazonas, Doug Wark, Mike Burns and Keith Van Eron.
Always looking to increase his soccer knowledge and experience, Miller was one of the first coaches to receive the “A” Coaching License from the great Dettmar Cramer, who at the time was in charge of the federation’s coaching program. Al toured the U.S. as Cramer’s assistant for the national coaching schools and also worked with Cramer as assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic and national teams.
A championship in his first year as a pro coach
In 1973 Miller accepted the challenge of coaching at the professional level when he took charge of the North American Soccer League (NASL) expansion Philadelphia Atoms. The Atoms were built around a core of American players (Bobby Rigby, Stan Startzell, Barry Barto, Bobby Smith), along with several quality English players that were on loan. Miller was a sensation with the Atoms as he led them to a 9-2-8 regular season and the league championship, defeating the Toronto Metros, 3-0, and the Dallas Tornado, 2-0. The rookie pro coach not only won the title, but he was named professional coach of the year by The Sporting News.
In subsequent years, Miller also coached the Tornado, the Calgary Boomers and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. In 1983 Miller guided the Rowdies to their third indoor title, at the time joining Eddie Firmani and Ron Newman as the only coaches who had won both indoor and outdoor NASL titles. From 1984-1988, Al Miller was general manager of the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), a team coached by Liekoski and Jay Hoffman (Chyzowych Award 2017).
A year later Miller was appointed president/general manager of an MISL expansion franchise in Cleveland. And in the ensuing 10 years, the Cleveland Crunch won three NPSL championships (1994, 1996 and 1999).
In recognition of Al’s multifaceted career, U.S. Soccer inducted him into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Walt Chyzowych Fund was founded after his passing in 1994 to honor his memory and promulgate his legacy as U.S. National Team coach and director of coaching. The fund helps provide coaching education scholarships to cover fees for up-and-coming young coaches. For additional information on the Walt Chyzowych Fund, and its partnership with the United Soccer Coaches Foundation program of scholarships and grants and/or to donate; please seewww.waltslegacy.com or UnitedSoccerCoaches.org/donate.