BJ Craig becomes a Rebel as new men’s soccer head coach

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Courtesy of UNLV Athletics

BJ Craig has been named the new head coach of the men’s soccer program at UNLV, Director of Athletics Erick Harper announced early in the new year.

Craig was thrilled to be able to accept the position and become a Rebel as he made the transition to Las Vegas. 

“For me there were three things that were important to me,” Craig said about his decision to come to Vegas. “One was I wanted to be at a place that could compete for championships. Number two I wanted to be at a place where the student athletes had everything available to them to develop as a person, as a player, and as a competitor- to have all the support systems in place.” 

“The third piece would just be a great fit for a fan. I think the fan environment is always key and working in that type of environment… Resources are better than what Power Fives have to be honest.”

Craig comes to Las Vegas after coaching as Oregon State’s associate head coach for the past four seasons. Prior to OSU, he held positions as assistant and associate head coach at Notre Dame over a 10-year span (2008-18), assistant coach at Louisville in 2007, and head coach for four years (2003-06) at Saint Francis University. 

Craig also brings some NCAA Tournament experience to the Rebel program. He helped guide the Beavers to the tournament three times, the Irish made nine tournament appearances while the Cardinals had one trip. 

He was on the coaching staff when Oregon State made a run to the Elite Eight as the overall No. 1 seed in 2021 along with helping to coach Notre Dame when it won the 2013 national title. 

Along with coaching teams to national success, Craig’s squads have come out on top of their conference a combined five times – the most recent being the Beavers’ first-ever outright Pac-12 Championship this past season. Additionally, his Irish teams hoisted four conference trophies.

Under his leadership, Craig’s former players have developed into some of the best in the country. He coached a MAC Hermann Trophy winner, three All-Americans, one Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and 20 All-Pac 12 selections in Corvallis, as well as 24 MLS draft picks, 10 All-Americans and 40 all-conference honorees in South Bend.

“When you look at the opportunity for a student athlete,” Craig said, “and you’re seeing this is what’s in front of me right now- the USR team and possibly a MLS team in your backyard and what we’re going to do at UNLV correlate very closely.” 

“If they are not a pro on the soccer field, they have a great opportunity to become a pro in life with all the job opportunities they are going to get with a degree. That’s the only thing I can get [my athletes], is a degree.”

Among the most notable former players to train with Craig at his previous coaching stops are five-time MLS All-Star and 2012 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler and 2012 All-Star Justin Morrow. The duo has also earned caps with the United States Senior National Team.

Craig graduated with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Gordon College in 1993 and later earned his master’s degree in education from UMass Lowell in 1997. 

“My main goal is simple. I want to make it the best place in the country to play college soccer,” Craig said. “I want it to be a place that inspires others. The program will inspire other people so that’s my main goal. Our focus will be to build the program the right way.”

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