By Nate Tenopir, Senior Staff Writer
When Jason Mims was hired as the first ever men’s soccer coach at UNO, he took on a position full of challenges. It was April 22, a little more than four months away from the start of the season, and Mims was the only piece in place.
He was tasked with building the program from the ground up. There were no players, no assistants and no schedule for the upcoming season.
But if you ask Mims, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It’s been challenging but that’s the fun part of it – if it wasn’t challenging I wouldn’t have taken the job,” Mims said. “You always want to be challenged and I’m very competitive.”
That attitude has served Mims well before, especially when he was helping former Creighton Head Coach Bob Warming develop the Jays into a top tier men’s soccer program. In 10 years as a Creighton assistant, Mims was a two-time finalist for the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year, won the 2008 Missouri Valley Assistant Coach of the Year and was a part of eight straight NCAA tournament appearances and six MVC championships.
Simply put, Jason Mims is well known in college soccer and is recognized as one of the nation’s best developers of talent. Though starting a program brings obvious challenges, UNO had a great asset right in its own backyard.
“I found out and let them know that I was interested, it’s a dream job for me,” Mims said. “I’ve lived in Omaha for 10 years [and] I love it here, love the city, I love everything about it.”
Though it will likely take time to get UNO to the same level that Mims had the Jays, the new UNO head coach enters the job as a very established name in the sport and city. Along with his time at Creighton, Mims coached club soccer for six years in Omaha, winning the state tournament each year.
“There’s a great buzz in town,” he said. “Soccer is getting bigger and bigger in Omaha.”
Mims cited the thousands of people who showed up for the state championships as evidence.
“There is a buzz in town, [and] it’s a positive buzz,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of Nebraska kids that want to come here.”
Unfortunately, new UNO men’s soccer fans won’t be able to get much of a glimpse of Mims’ team this year. After the Mavs begin their season on Aug. 26 at future Summit League foe UMKC, UNO will play at home two days later, then only twice more all season.
The 13-game first season includes an NCAA tournament team from last year and an opening stretch in which three of the first four Mav opponents won either a conference regular season or tournament championship last year.
UNO will travel to California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana before a trip to Florida to end the year. With names like Santa Clara, UC-Irvine and UMKC on the first-year schedule, Mims and the Mavs aren’t shying away from playing some of the top teams in the nation.
“We do have a lot of road games with the timing of the situation,” Mims said. “My take is we want to play the hardest teams we can play, that we can schedule.”
He said the players are looking forward to the challenge.
“I think the players want that, that’s why they’re coming here,” he said. “We want to find out where we’re at and that will kind of show us the next three, four years down the road what we have to do to get better.”
Regardless of how much success UNO may have in its first few seasons, the Mavs won’t be a full member of the Summit League for a few years and will consequently be ineligible to qualify for postseason tournaments. But as Mims begins to build the UNO men’s soccer program, wins and losses won’t be an initial measure of success.
“I’m not worried about winning right now,” he said. “The important thing right now is the way our guys handle themselves as far as on the soccer field, the way they play, academically, in the community doing camps and community service.”
Positive exposure in the community will be key, Mims said.
“I think these guys know they have an expectation with being a first-year program that we have to get out in the community and be involved and help out.”