The frustration on Bob Guelker's face was pitiable. The father of two college soccer dynasties and a man with one of the finest coaching records in any sport, he could only wonder why it had to keep happening to him.
"It was a wonderful crowd," he said in anguish. "It was a marvelous game and it was great for soccer, but why does what's great for soccer always have to be bad for us?"
Guelker had just come from Busch Stadium in St. Louis and—well, St. Louis University had just done it to him again. On a cold Friday night last week before 20,112 steamed-up witnesses, the most ever to see a college soccer game in this country, the Billikens had slipped by Guelker's Cougars of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville by the length of an outstretched arm, 1-0. As the soccer-wise St. Louis crowd had come to expect of this series, it was a brilliant game, fast, tough and brutally defensive—and predictable. All SIU-E had gained in six previous tries was a tie.
For Guelker, a dapper man who ordinarily bears up under his burden with admirable aplomb, this latest setback was almost too galling. Going into the game, his Cougars had been one tie short of perfection, though they were starting three freshmen and three sophomores. They were unscored on in 11 straight games—another collegiate record—and they were ranked first in the country, one place ahead of St. Louis.
Most galling of all, it was Bob Guelker who made St. Louis what it is today. The Billikens were his first dynasty. A St. Louis graduate himself, he was doubling as soccer coach at St. Louis Prep Seminary and as executive secretary of the Catholic Youth Council's eight-sport, 45,000-member recreational program when he decided in 1958 that his alma mater could use a soccer team of its own. He called up Athletic Director Bob Stewart and volunteered his services.
"I can get the players for you," Guelker was able to promise with certainty. "All I need from you is some money and a playing schedule."
Soon Stewart responded: "I've got you a budget of $200 and a schedule of two games." Guelker was not ecstatic, but it was a start. The first year, St. Louis won four games and tied one. In 1959 the Billikens, then considered varsity, won 11, lost one and captured the first NCAA championship. In eight varsity seasons, Guelker, playing mostly St. Louisans out of the Catholic high school, youth-council and amateur leagues, won 95 games (with nine losses and five ties) and five NCAA championships.
Then, in 1967, Guelker decided it was time to move—though not far. He went to the Southern Illinois campus that had sprung up modern and gleaming on the rolling fields east of the Mississippi in nearby Edwardsville. He launched a soccer program, became athletic director and developed a spacious three-field practice area and a tidy soccer stadium that seats 4,000. To fill it he brought in the same talent that had made him such a genius at St. Louis U. And he has been a genius again, winning 63 games, tying six and losing only 10 in seven years. Last season he also won the NCAA's first college-division tournament. Guelker is big on those inaugurals.
The record would have been even flashier had the Cougars never heard of St. Louis U., but of course they had. All 22 starters Friday night were St. Louisans and, as everybody knows, hell hath no fury like a brawl between old buddies.
"We've known each other so well and for so long that there are no secrets left," said St. Louis co-captain Dan Counce before Friday's game. "That's what makes our games so hard-fought. No one has a problem getting up for this."