From Robert Morris University report
RMU Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris King announced Monday that Jason O’Keefe has been named head coach of the men’s soccer program.
“Selecting Jason O’Keefe as our next head coach sets the course for a new era of success in all phases of our men’s soccer program,” King said. “Jason was highly recommended to me by several of the most reputable head coaches in collegiate soccer. He brings an incredible record of success and experience as a head coach and his involvement with championship level soccer programs.”
O’Keefe spent the last four years as head coach at Appalachian State, the last two of which he led the Mountaineers to back-to-back winning seasons, including a mark of 11-7-1 (.605) in 2019. Included among the 11 victories for Appalachian State in 2019 was a 1-0 road win over nationally ranked North Carolina, the first for the program over the Tar Heels since 1980.
“I’m honored and humbled by this fantastic opportunity to become the next head coach of the RMU men’s soccer program,” O’Keefe said. “I would like to thank RMU Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris King and the search committee for their time, consideration and confidence in me to lead such a historic program. I’m excited and looking forward to building on the legacy that former student-athletes and coaches have built. I can’t wait to get started working with the student-athletes, department of athletics and the university community.”
Happy to be part of this historic program. Can’t wait to get to work!!! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
— Jason OKeefe (@okeefej9) November 24, 2020
In May, O’Keefe learned while he was on vacation, via a Zoom meeting with Appalachian State Athletic Director Doug Gillin, that the school would be discontinuing its men’s soccer program.
Two other Appalachian State programs were axed that day, too — men’s tennis and men’s indoor track.
The school — which was trying to shave $5 million off its total athletic budget for the fiscal 2021 year — characterized the disbanding of the three sports as a necessary cost-cutting measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The decision was not an indictment against any of the sports that were discontinued,” Gillin told the Charlotte-Observer.
Under O’Keefe’s tutelage in 2019 at Appalachian State, Zeiko Harris was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year while earning a spot on the United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast Region Second Team. He anchored an Appalachian State defense that recorded eight shutouts on the season, tied for the Sun Belt lead with Georgia State.
In guiding ASU to an 8-6-3 (.559) mark in 2018, O’Keefe helped the Mountaineers post a 2-1 triumph over No. 22 Coastal Carolina, also on the road. Goalkeeper Jake Chasteen was selected as the 2018 Sun Belt Co-Player of the Year as he led the league in goals against average (.844), save percentage (.762) and shutouts (7). It marked the first conference player of the year award for Appalachian State since 1989, and the seven players earning All-Sun Belt accolades were the most for the program since 1980.
As a program in 2018, Appalachian State owned the best defense in the Sun Belt, allowing just 15 goals during the season. The Mountaineers posted a goals against average of .844, which topped the Sun Belt and ranked 29th in the country.
“Jason will maximize the potential of our men’s soccer program in short order, as he has demonstrated the ability to develop student-athletes to perform at the highest level, both athletically and academically,” King said. “RMU wants to compete for Horizon League championships, and with Jason’s extensive recruiting contacts and prior competitive excellence, we are confident that he can take this program to the next level.”
In the four years that O’Keefe was at the helm of the Appalachian State program, the Mountaineers recorded 24 clean sheets. During his time leading the program, O’Keefe helped ASU jump in the RPI rankings from 160 to as high 43 during the 2019 campaign.
Away from competition, O’Keefe helped Appalachian State excel in the classroom and in the community. In hours recorded by the Helper Helper platform, which assists in coordinating and tracking volunteer service hours, the Mountaineers ranked No. 4 among NCAA Division I programs in 2019. In addition, Appalachian State won the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award three consecutive years (2016, 2017, 2018).
O’Keefe, a native of Washington, D.C., who grew up in Herndon, Va., takes over an RMU program with 20 years of coaching experience in the collegiate ranks.
Prior to his stint as head coach at Appalachian State, O’Keefe spent two years as an assistant coach at North Carolina from 2014-15. During his two years in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Tar Heels made the NCAA Tournament twice, advancing to the Elite Eight in 2014. UNC posted a pair of top 10 finishes, ranking No. 5 and No. 9, respectively, in the final polls according to the United Soccer Coaches. As recruiting coordinator at North Carolina, O’Keefe helped the Tar Heels post consecutive top 10 recruiting classes according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Between 2010 and 2013, O’Keefe served as an assistant coach at Saint Louis University, where he helped the Billikens claim a pair of Atlantic 10 championships and a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. While an assistant at Saint Louis, the Billikens were ranked No. 1 in the United Soccer Coaches Mid-Atlantic Region in both seasons. O’Keefe was named the United Soccer Coaches Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012, and the following year was selected as one of the nation’s top 15 assistant coaches according to CollegeSoccerNews.com.
Prior to joining the coaching staff at Saint Louis, O’Keefe served three seasons at Elon from 2007 to 2009. He was an assistant coach for two years before being promoted to associate head coach for his final year with the Phoenix. In 2008, Elon claimed its first Southern Conference regular-season championship in program history.
During his three seasons with the Phoenix, O’Keefe recruited or coached four student-athletes that went on to earn Southern Conference major awards, including Chris Thomas, who was selected as the 2009 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year as well as the Southern Conference Player of the Year in both 2010 and 2012.
O’Keefe has also had coaching stops at Greensboro College (2000-02), Wake Forest (2003-05) and Cincinnati (2006). In his lone season with the Bearcats, he helped Cincinnati post its first Big East championship in program history and berth in the NCAA Tournament while also coaching the 2006 Big East Offensive Player of the Year.
At Wake Forest, O’Keefe coached student-athletes that were named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Offensive Player of the Year in both 2003 and 2004 while also tutoring the 2004 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
O’Keefe began his coaching career at Greensboro College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1997. In his three seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, the Pride claimed two Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.
While a student-athlete on the men’s soccer team at Greensboro College, O’Keefe helped the Pride earn a share of the 1994 Dixie Conference title as well as the South Region championship in the 1996 NCAA Division III NCAA Tournament. O’Keefe owns a United States Soccer Federation (NSSF) “A” license as well as a United Soccer Coaches advanced national diploma.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT JASON O’KEEFE
Jay Vidovich, Head Coach, University of Pittsburgh Men’s Soccer
“Jason is a great hire for RMU Athletics. He’s been associated with winning cultures throughout his career and has the experience of turning a program around. Both RMU and the Pittsburgh soccer scene will benefit from his presence.”
Mike Brizendine, Head Coach, Virginia Tech Men’s Soccer
“Things are about to change at RMU with Jason at the helm. He is one of the best recruiters in the country and has a track record for making programs better.”
Chaka Daley, Head Coach, University of Michigan Men’s Soccer
“Coach O’Keefe is an experienced coach with a tireless work ethic to build programs and recruit student-athletes that know how to compete at the highest level, both in the classroom and on the field.”
Bobby Muuss, Head Coach, Wake Forest University Men’s Soccer
“Congratulations to RMU and the entire men’s soccer program on the hiring of Jason O’Keefe. He is one of the best young coaches and recruiters in the country. What he created and built at Appalachian State was amazing. I know he is hungry to get started there and bring the same, if not better, success to RMU. I couldn’t be happier for Jason on the appointment. He is a great coach but an even better person, and I am lucky to be able to call him my friend.”
Carlos Somoano, Head Coach, University of North Carolina Men’s Soccer
“Coach O’Keefe is a great hire and will be a wonderful coach for RMU men’s soccer. More importantly, he will provide caring leadership and mentorship for the student-athletes under his guidance. Congratulations to both RMU and Coach O’Keefe.”