Year: 3rd Year at VCU
Dave Giffard is set to embark on his third season as Head Coach of the Virginia Commonwealth University men's soccer program. Giffard came to VCU after a successful four-year stint as an assistant at nation power University of Akron.
“Bringing Dave to VCU was a real coup for our soccer program,” former VCU Director of Athletics Norwood Teague said upon Giffard’s arrival. “What he and [head coach] Caleb [Porter] were able to do at Akron has been nothing short of spectacular, and I am excited to see him apply it here at VCU. The future is very bright for VCU soccer."
It didn’t take long for Giffard to make an impression in his first season as he guided the Rams to an appearance in the four-team Colonial Athletic Association Tournament for the first time since 2007. The Black & Gold finished second in the CAA’s regular season standings, including a school record-tying 10-match unbeaten streak, after placing 10th in the league in 2009 and ninth in 2008. VCU suffered a heartbreaking, 2-1 setback in the final seconds against Hofstra in the semifinals, denying the Rams a trip to their first CAA title match in six years.
Seven players earned All-Colonial Athletic Association honors in Giffard’s first year at VCU, which was the most since 2004, including a pair of first team selections in seniors Lucas Paulini, who also garnered NSCAA South Atlantic All-Region recognition, and C.J. Gehin-Scott. Under Giffard’s tutelage, senior goalkeeper Gabriel Rodriguez ranked fifth in the nation with a .578 goals-against-average, while the VCU defense ranked 19th in the NCAA with a .730 gaa.
Giffard’s Rams received both regional and national recognition for their play on the pitch in 2010. VCU was ranked among the top 10 in the NSCAA South Atlantic Regional poll during the final six weeks of the season before concluding the year ranked seventh. Meanwhile, the Black & Gold gained national attention when it appeared in Goal.com’s Top 25 in back-to-back weeks (Oct. 4 and Oct. 11).
Not only did his program turn heads on the field, it also enjoyed a successful campaign academically with 17 players posting 3.0 GPAs or better during the Spring 2010 semester and 19 surpassing the mark in the Fall term. It’s evident that Giffard believes success in the classroom directly relates to success on the field as his program more than doubled its total from the previous semester – just seven student-athletes had GPAs of 3.0 or better the semester before his arrival.
Prior to joining VCU, Giffard spent four years under Porter at 2010 National Champion Akron. The Zips finished the 2009 campaign, Giffard’s final season, as National Runner-Up after falling to Virginia on penalty kicks, which was its only blemish on a superb 23-1-1 campaign.
“My goals for the program are simple,” Giffard
notes. “We need to build a solid foundation and a culture of
excellence, coupled with the recruitment of talented and committed
student-athletes that will allow us to compete at the highest
levels of NCAA Division I Soccer. There will be very high standards
in all aspects of the student-athlete experience, with the goal
that each player will develop to reach his potential, and as a
group we can accomplish the very best that we are capable of. Last
season, we were able to start laying that foundation for the future
here at VCU.”
Giffard was outstanding on the recruiting trail with Akron, reeling in top-five recruiting classes every season, including the top class in the country in 2009. In all, the Zips recruited 10 NSCAA Youth All-Americans, and five players earned Parade All-American citations during their Akron careers. In addition, Giffard had a hand in coaching and/or recruiting each of the last three national players of the year in Hermann Trophy recipients Darlington Nagbe (2010) and Teal Bunbury (2009), and Soccer America honorees Kofi Sarkodie (2010), Bunbury and Steven Zakuani (2008).
"VCU is getting not only a good coach who will be extremely beneficial to the program’s success soccer wise, but even more importantly, his quality as a person will benefit the mentoring of his student athletes academically and as people,” Porter said. “Dave will hit the ground running and I expect his impact on the players and presence with the alumni and in the community to be felt immediately."
Outside of recruiting, Giffard was instrumental in the development of the Zips goalkeepers, including Evan Bush, who was a Freshman All-American and a three-time All-MAC First-Team honoree, and is now playing for the Cleveland City Stars of the USL. The tradition continued in 2009, when Zips’ freshman keeper David Meves was named a Freshman All-American and Third Team Great Lakes All-Region after he led the nation in goals-against-average and shutout percentage.
“Coach [Giffard] is a top-notch guy, first and foremost,” Bush said. “He cares strongly about the game of soccer and the players he coaches. His work ethic and drive during the time I was around him were major strengths. I think he is a great person to have lead the young men at VCU, not only on the field, but just as importantly, off the field.”
Under Giffard’s tutelage, Akron led the nation in goals-against-average during his final two seasons. In 2009, the Zips tied an NCAA record for consecutive victories in a single season with 23.
Thanks to his ability to build relationships in the community, Giffard aided a nearly 350-percent attendance boom at Akron. In 2009, Akron’s average attendance of 2,618 per game ranked among the nation’s leaders.
Prior to Akron, Giffard spent one season as a volunteer assistant at Indiana, where the Hoosiers went 13-3-6 and earned the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Under his direction, IU goalkeeper Chris Munroe led the Big Ten in shutouts and goals-against-average on the way to a First Team Academic All-America selection.
Before his tenure at Indiana, Giffard served as an assistant at the University of Alabama-Birmingham from 2000-04. The Blazers posted a 60-29-16 overall record over that span and earned a pair of NCAA Tournament bids, including a Sweet 16 run in 2001. UAB was also ranked among the top 10 in the nation during each of Giffard’s five years.
“I think that VCU has hired a superb coach and a guy who has been successful at every stop in his coaching career,” UAB Head Coach Mike Getman said. “More than just a coach, Dave is a terrific person that is an excellent recruiter and an outstanding builder of relationships, both with student-athletes and the surrounding community. I know that Dave will continue his history of success as he takes the reins of VCU soccer.”
Since 2000 with UAB, Indiana, Akron and VCU, Giffard has had a hand in coaching and/or recruiting 36 players who have gone on to be drafted or play professional soccer, including five of the first eight picks (a total of seven) in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. Giffard also coached Zakuani, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, and two members of last year’s Generation Adidas class, Bunbury and Blair Gavin.
“Coach Giffard has a terrific ability to relate to his players and is a very approachable guy, both on and off the soccer field,” Zakuani said. “I spent a lot of time with him and he is a huge reason as to why I am where I am today, both in soccer and in life.”
Giffard began his coaching career at his alma mater, MacMurray (Ill.) College, in 1998. From 1999-2000 he served as the assistant men’s soccer coach at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where he led the squad to a school-record 12 victories.
Giffard received his degree in physical education from MacMurray in 1999 and went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education from UAB in 2003. He holds a USSF “B” license, as well as an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma.
Giffard and his wife Marisa, reside in Glen Allen, Va.