Former University of Wisconsin men's soccer coach Jim Launder has applied to return to that job, but he doesn't appear to be a top candidate for the position.
Even though Launder has a resume he believes stacks up with any soccer coach in the country, he said he doesn't expect an interview after a recent phone conversation with UW assistant athletic director Steve Waterfield, who is conducting the coaching search.
"(Waterfield) kind of intimated I wasn't on a list that would get called in for an interview," Launder said. "He was like thanking me for helping with youth players in the state, as if I was a kids' coach or something.
"I do work for the (Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association) but I've also been coaching youth national teams and training pros for the last 10 years. I don't know if he understood that or he didn't really read the resume or what."
Launder, 57, was fired by UW in February of 1997, after 15 years as coach and a little more than a year after leading the Badgers to the NCAA title.
The firing by the UW Athletic Board sparked a huge public controversy that pushed soccer stories to the front pages of the local newspapers for several months.
Launder, who still lives in Madison, has retained a loyal following among UW alumni and members of the local soccer community. Some of them started a letter-writing campaign to get the Athletic Board to consider bringing Launder back.
"The program has really floundered through four coaches since (Launder) was fired," said Marion Greaser, a faculty member in the departments of animal sciences and anatomy. "I think he'd bring stability, much like the way (Dick) Bennett and (Bo) Ryan brought stability to the (men's) basketball program."
It was the urging of supporters that helped convince Launder to apply, after the surprise departure of Todd Yeagley, who left after one year for the same job at Indiana. Launder used to coach Yeagley and had reconnected with the UW program in the past year, which also helped spark his interest in the job.
"I had been trying to help (Yeagley) as much as I could, within the bounds of NCAA rules," Launder said.
"I thought about (applying). Then I got some calls from alumni and other people saying, ‘Jim, why don't you apply? I know you got fired there, but all of those people are gone, they'll forget about it.' I said, ‘I don't know if they will.' ''
When other supporters said they wanted to promote him as a potential candidate, Launder agreed to apply.
The Badgers made the NCAA tournament in four of Launder's final six years but have not returned since.
"It has been a great program in the past," Launder said. "If we could do it at that stage ... you've got to think you can get back to that level."
Launder works as a scout for the U.S. Soccer Academies Program, is the coach of the Princeton 56ers and serves as director of coaching for the WYSA.
The UW soccer job posting goes through Jan. 19, so the earliest a coach could be named is the following day.
"I'm still looking to narrow down the group and get someone in place as soon as possible," Waterfield said. "I'll review Jim's application like everyone else's that has applied for the job."
After leaving UW, Launder was hired as the coach at Dayton, where he took a team that finished in last place the year before and led it to the Atlantic-10 title and an NCAA berth in his first year.
"I'm kind of disappointed," Launder said of potentially not getting an interview for the UW job. "I think if you looked at my resume, it would be hard to find maybe two or three people in the country with better resumes. ... But I don't think that's part of the equation."
Launder acknowledged his history at UW might be too much to overcome, although he added, "I really had problems with one person, the last time, and that person isn't here."
Cheryl Marra, a former associate athletic director at UW, spearheaded the efforts to remove Launder after poor evaluations by some student-athletes. The firing led to a two-year review of the process used to retain or release coaches. A university committee concluded the firing was flawed and should have been more thorough.
Launder's goal is to return to college coaching within a few years and UW is his first choice. He admitted his age could be a factor with some schools but his passion for coaching has not subsided.
"At 57, I feel much more complete as a coach than I did at 38," he said. "You have experiences and things in your bank you can't have at that (younger) age.
"I want to get back into coaching a full-time team. I've been coaching a summer league team, which is great ... but I would really love to get back into building a team, which is a different process (and) one I love doing."