The elderly campus cop refuses to let Jerry Yeagley drive into the special parking lot because his sticker has expired. "I'm the coach of the soccer team," Yeagley tells him, angling for a little of the respect reserved at Indiana University for winning teams.
"O.K. this time," says the cop, "but I won't let you in again."
Once in the magnificent new athletic-building, Yeagley strides down a plushly carpeted corridor. The nameplates on the doors read like a Who's Who of college coaching: Jim (Doc) Counsilman, who led Indiana to six NCAA titles and was the men's swim coach at Montreal; Bobby Knight, coach of Indiana's pride and joy, the 1976 NCAA champion basketball team.
The carpeting ends, but Yeagley keeps walking: down the stairs, past the equipment room to a tiny office with chicken wire in the glass. He apologizes to a visitor. "This used to be the janitor's office," he says. "They say we'll move soon."
The reason Yeagley has second-class quarters is that soccer is only in its fourth varsity year at IU and hasn't produced many dollars for the budget or titles for the brochures. The reason Yeagley may be on his way to better office space is that his Hoosiers have been the big surprise of this college season, starting out unmentioned and unranked and finishing 15-0-1, rated second nationally behind Clemson and headed for the NCAA playoffs.
"I've coached soccer here for 14 years," Yeagley says. "The first 10 we were just a club and intramural sport. I wanted to build a soccer power, to make something special, and we're on the way now. I had chances to go to better soccer schools and even the pros, but I stuck it out and I'm glad."
The theories that made the 36-year-old Yeagley a successful club coach (78-25-7) still define his varsity style and approach. "I don't like the concept of 'stars,' " he says, "the kind of team you can build by recruiting heavily in Africa and Jamaica. Clemson does it, and very successfully, but for me it is easier to build teamwork with American players."
Nonetheless the Hoosiers do have a star this year, and he is a foreigner to boot. Angelo DiBernardo, a 20-year-old freshman from Argentina who graduated from a suburban Chicago high school, is instrumental in IU's success. A striker of surprising speed and touch, DiBernardo scored all of the Hoosier goals against St. Louis University in a 5-1 upset of the perennial NCAA soccer power that propelled Indiana into national prominence. The last two goals were one-on-one hits.
DiBernardo is mastering the star's art of understatement. "I didn't think I could do it," he says of his five-goal game, "but my aim is for the '78 World Cup, so I have to get ready." And he downplays the importance of his individual talents. "We are so close as a team, it's amazing," he says. Eighteen goals for a freshman is also amazing, especially when you learn that he missed five games because of injuries.
One could observe the Yeagley/DiBernardo style in IU's last real test of the season, a game with old rival Cleveland State on a miserably cold and cloudy afternoon, with 1,110 frozen fans watching the action in the 52,354-seat Indiana football stadium.
"Our strategy is to be first to the ball, particularly at midfield," says Yeagley. "Whoever controls the ball controls the game." Playing a confident 4-3-3 zone, Indiana pressed Cleveland so hard that one of its defenders batted the ball with his hand inside the penalty area, and IU scored its first goal from the resulting penalty kick at 14:09.
Six minutes later DiBernardo, who has the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time, fired in a rebound off the goalie's hands for the second score. Seven minutes after that he took a pass at midfield. Surrounded by green shirts, he accelerated, outran three defenders and, as the goalie came out to meet him, placed a shot that surprisingly hooked in front of the goalie's knees and into a corner of the nets. Then DiBernardo sat down with a minor groin pull and his teammates scored two more goals for a 5-0 triumph.
"Until Angelo arrived, Jerry's teams had to rely on an Irish-English style of play," says Joe Ricapito, a longtime Indiana fan and the team's P.A. announcer. "That meant hard running, close defense, mid-range passes and occasional long, touchline passes to clear the defending midfield. But he never had a good scoring combination up front. Now with Angelo and a few more like him, maybe they can finesse the game more, become more South American with more touch and short passes, not running themselves to death out there to win."
Another of Yeagley's stars is Steve Burks, a senior forward and the alltime Indiana scoring leader. Burks recalls how he came to be in Bloomington. "I was playing amateur soccer in Fort Wayne and one of Coach Yeagley's assistants came up to recruit me," he says. "I never finished high school. I'd played a little soccer in Europe. I didn't even know they played it in college. So I took the equivalency test and came here to school. I wanted to go to the pros, but the coach convinced me I could do that after school. Now we'll see if he's right.
"We're a deep team but the real reason we've been doing well is mental. Yeagley can give you confidence. He uses a complicated psychology on you. When we're down 2-0 the forwards aren't afraid anymore to take chances and try to score."
Confidence is partly responsible for Indiana's new winning ways; so is Yeagley's deft recruiting and the solid style of soccer he learned growing up outside Philadelphia and playing on the West Chester State 1961 NCAA championship team. But there is more to it than that—namely, Yeagley's fierce desire to see soccer become a top sport in Bloomington. To that end he sometimes acts as if he were running a public-relations firm on the side. He has players giving soccer demonstrations around town in shopping centers. He has them selling tickets on the campus and nailing up bedsheet booster signs before important games. Burks, an art major, designs the programs. "And we're getting closer to paying our way," Yeagley reports happily about his gate receipts.
As he leans back in his chair and puts his big-time coach's tassel loafers up on the desk in the janitor's office, Jerry Yeagley envisions the playoffs ahead. At the end of the long tunnel is Philadelphia, Dec. 5, the NCAA finals. "I really don't know if we'll make it," he says. "I'm amazed at this year already. I don't know what to think. Except that I'm pretty happy about it." And he probably has not forgotten that a title on the door rates a carpet on the floor.