Over the next week, GoDuke.com will honor the seven 2013 Duke Athletics Hall of Fame inductees with their own Hall of Fame Spotlight, a seven-question interview that covers their time at Duke, the people that most influenced their remarkable careers, their advice to current student-athletes, and more.
First up, former Men's Soccer Head Coach John Rennie. One of the most successful coaches in NCAA collegiate soccer history, Rennie led Duke to the school's first NCAA title in any sport when the Blue Devils captured the 1986 NCAA Championship. He served as the head coach at Duke for 29 seasons and finished his 36-year coaching career with a 454-207-48 record.
GoDuke.com: Who had the most influence on you during your time at Duke?
John Rennie: In terms of working at Duke and the people here, it was Tom Butters, the athletic director who hired me. He hired me and supported me when we started very slowly building a program of scholarships and facilities. He believed in soccer. He believed in what I was doing. Without his support, we wouldn’t have had a stadium with lights, increased scholarship aid and recruiting budgets, and without that help, it would be impossible to do what we did. Certainly Tom Butters had the biggest influence early on and for quite a long time after.
GoDuke.com: What was your proudest sports-related moment at Duke?
JR: Winning a national championship is the obvious answer, but there are some other real highlights. The first year we were .500. I was going to start six freshman in 1980. My second year, I decided I would formally request that Mr. Butters come to our home game against Clemson, who hadn’t lost a game in the ACC in nine years. They had an all international, foreign team, and they just blew everyone away. We were 6-0, they were 7-0, and we played them at home. The place was just mobbed. It was wonderful to see, and we actually won the game, 3-1. That kind of created a belief in what we were doing and gained a lot of support from the community and the soccer team. That’s a wonderful memory.
GoDuke.com: What was your fondest memory of Duke outside of sports?
JR: I think the environment of the University and the city to raise a family. We have two kids that were born here and this is their home. It’s been our home since 1979. All of the things that go along with the university life, whether it’s the athletics or the campus life, concerts, people visiting. It’s just been a great experience being at Duke.
GoDuke.com: What advice would you give to current Duke student-athletes?
JR: Study. It’s a time to live up to your dreams and work hard and don’t forget about your school. The advice any parent would give their child. Go to class, do the work, and then enjoy whatever else you’re doing.
GoDuke.com: What is your reaction when you hear your name and “Duke Athletics Hall of Famer” in the same sentence?
JR: I don’t know if it’s sunk in. I haven’t heard too many people call me that. It’s a tremendous honor. I remember being in the audience when our first soccer player was inducted, Joe Ulrich. He was the first one to be inducted into the Duke Hall of Fame. I remember sitting there watching him go through this process and thinking how nervous he must be. It’s just a tremendous honor.
GoDuke.com: What separates Duke from other schools athletically?
JR: It’s the combination. The athletics here are supported well. They’re in the proper place of the university universe, so to speak. I was at Columbia University for six years, before I came down here, and we had built the soccer program up. My first three years at Columbia University we won four games, in three years, not a season. My sixth year, we won the Ivy League Championship and won an NCAA game or two. It was great and we loved New York, but there just wasn’t the room for growth in the program. It was really hard being a student-athlete at Columbia University in the Ivy League. It’s hard for the athletes. It’s hard to build a program.
GoDuke.com: Why did you choose Duke?
JR: I wanted a place where you could have both academics and athletics. Fortunately, the Duke job was open and I got it, because I couldn’t think of a better place.