Barton College director of athletics Todd Wilkinson knows a lot more about baseball than soccer, having served as the Bulldogs baseball coach for 19 seasons.
Wilkinson, however, knows enough about soccer to have hit a proverbial home run when it came to hiring a new men’s coach to replace Matt Akins, who resigned in June after a successful 10-year stint directing the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas Bulldogs.
Barton announced Monday that Ian McMichael, most recently the head coach at Div. III Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, would succeed Akins. McMichael led the Tigers for two years before stepping down in February, but prior to that, he was the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for Barton’s Conference Carolinas rival Pfeiffer University. Many of McMichael’s recruits helped guide the Falcons to the NCAA Div. II championship in 2015 after he had left for Hampden-Sydney. His former boss, Pfeiffer head coach Bob Reasso, gave McMichael a solid recommendation, something that Wilkinson noticed immediately when he began the process of searching for Akins’ successor.
“He was an early applicant that had a strong reference from Coach Reasso at Pfeiffer who has had a long and hall-of-fame type career,” Wilkinson said.
McMichael also served as an assistant coach at Div. I programs UNC Wilmington, from which he holds a masters degree, and Xavier. He takes over a Bulldogs program Akins built into a Conference Carolinas contender. Barton reached the NCAA Div. II tournament for the first time in 2014, but the Bulldogs struggled last season, going 6-11-1. However, Barton still made the Conference Carolinas tournament for the seventh straight season.
“I am grateful to inherit a program that is in a healthy state due to the decade of work of my predecessor, Matt Akins, and I am looking forward to the challenge of continuing to push the program to grow and leading a pursuit of excellence in all aspects of the program,” McMichael, who was unavailable for a comment to the Times, said in a release from Barton.
He indicated that he will focus on defense.
“We want to be dynamic in our attack and we want to dictate the game through possession,” he said. “We want to be a threat on the counter and we want to be creative and cerebral in our approach. We will strive to be organized and dangerous on set pieces. And, knowing that we are in a results-driven business, we will be willing to play in whatever style, formation, and means to fight for points in our league.”
McMichael’s knowledge of recruiting in North Carolina is another positive, Wilkinson said, pointing out the last two Div. II champions (Pfeffer in 2015 and Wingate last fall) are North Carolina schools.
“North Carolina is loaded with talented players and I have enjoyed recruiting or coaching in this state for most of my career so far,” McMichael said. “Character will be paramount as we recruit talented players from across the state and as we recruit talented players from across the world.”
Wilkinson said that like his predecessors, Akins and longtime Bulldogs coach and former athletic director Gary Hall, McMichael will embrace the youth soccer community in Wilson.
“I think that’s pretty much embedded in all the soccer programs that might be in a town with the interest level of soccer in Wilson,” Wilkinson said. “That was a drawing card, to get someone of Ian’s caliber.”
McMichael and his wife, Tina, have three children — Willa, Koen and Hazel. He spoke glowingly of the chance to work at Barton.
“The decision to come to Barton to coach was first and foremost a tremendous opportunity in the profession I am passionate and enthusiastic about,” McMichael said. “I was quite impressed with the people I met through the interview process, including many of the current coaches, student leaders on campus, and a couple of alumni. And, most importantly, I chose to come to Barton because we see it has a wonderful opportunity for our family. We are excited to immerse ourselves in the community of Wilson and hopefully contribute positively to this community.”