The search for Southern Oregon University's first men's soccer coach is almost complete.
SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre and a search committee have zeroed in on three candidates who will each be interviewed on campus over the course of the next week. Clark College (Wash.) head coach Biniam Afengus, former University of Texas at Brownsville head coach Daniel Balaguero, and Mars Hill University (N.C.) head coach Gary Hamel are the finalists.
Once a coach is selected, recruiting will begin immediately for the program's inaugural season in the fall of 2015.
"These coaches have a breadth of college experience and have been successful at the places they've been," Sayre said. "We need a program builder, and one dedicated to the ethos of character-driven athletics we value. These are three solid candidates."
Afengus has led Clark to a 123-27-16 record since taking over in 2007, finishing first or second in the standings eight straight seasons with five South Region championships and one Northwest Athletic Conference championship. He's twice been named the South Region coach of the year and once been the NWAC coach of the year.
Afengus — a United States Soccer Federation "A" licensed coach — formerly played in the Cascade Conference at Concordia University (Ore.), where he was an NAIA first-team all-region performer in 1998 and earned a bachelor's degree in physical education. He remained at Concordia to obtain a master's degree in education-physical education and health.
He also currently serves as the head coach of the Vancouver Victory, which competes in the newly-formed Evergreen Premier League for college and post-college athletes.
Balaguero had a successful eight-year run at Brownsville, an NAIA program that's gone 119-30-11 since he took over in 2007, but the school is set to merge with Texas-Pan American to create a new university (Texas-Rio Grande Valley) that will only retain Pan American's NCAA Division I programs. Balaguero also served as the interim director of athletics and head men's and women's cross country coach in his time there. His team advanced to the NAIA title game in 2014, had the top win percentages in the country in 2009 and 2014, and improved its overall GPA in each of the last six seasons.
Prior to Brownsville, Balaguero was the head coach for three seasons at the NAIA's Virginia Intermont College — going 52-14-2 with two Appalachian Athletic Conference titles and as many national tournament appearances — and an assistant for one season at the University of Maine, an NCAA Division I program. He played first at Champlain College (Vt.), where he was the National Junior College Player of the Year in 1996, and then at West Virginia University, where he was a Big East all-star in 1998 and earned a degree in sports management. Later, he got a graduate degree in education from American Intercontinental University (Ill.).
Hamel took over in 2012 as the head coach at Mars Hill, an NCAA Division II program that competes in the South Atlantic Conference. He led Mars Hill to a 14-3-3 record and a conference title in his first year before having to replace 14 players, and this year helped the Lions to an 8-3 record in the conference.
Hamel was an assistant at Oregon State for four years before heading east. With the Beavers, he recruited first-team All-Pac 12 performer Emery Welshman, an eventual MLS Super Draft pick, and assisted in the recruitment and development of Danny Mwanga, the 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year and the top pick of the 2010 MLS Super Draft. While with OSU, the Beavers placed eight individuals on the 2011 Pac-12 All-Academic team.
SOU hopes to make a hire in the coming weeks. The additions of men's soccer and women's wrestling were announced on Jan. 8.