It took one month and two days from Frank Pelaez’s surprise Saturday night departure from Marquette women’s soccer for athletic director Bill Scholl to finalize a replacement. The weird timing thing continues though, as Marquette published a press release on the website at 7:43pm Central time on a Thursday night to announce the hiring of Chris Allen as the program’s fifth head coach.
Bill Scholl on the new top man in charge in the Valley:
“When we began this search, we were looking for somebody with a significant history of success on the pitch and just as importantly, we wanted an individual who understands and embraces the Jesuit mission and the core values of Marquette University,” Scholl said. ”Finally, the successful candidate needed to have a passion for providing student-athletes with the transformational Marquette experience they so richly deserve. In Chris, I believe we have found that person.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chris, his wife Jodie and their children Bailey, Parker and Grayson to the Marquette family,” Scholl said.
And here’s Allen himself on his new job:
“I am incredibly honored and privileged to be named the women’s soccer head coach at Marquette University,” Allen said. ”I would like to thank Bill Scholl and Sarah Bobert for believing in my vision of restoring Marquette soccer back to BIG EAST and national prominence.
“I also want to thank Chris May, Janet Oberle, and Katie Shields for all their support, mentorship and guidance during our eight years of unprecedented success at SLU,” Allen added. ”I wouldn’t have this opportunity without their tremendous belief in me.
“I can’t wait to get started working with the Marquette team,” Allen said. ”I am excited to connect with the alumni, pour into the current team and craft our vision for the future of a special program and university. We are Marquette!”
Allen comes to Marquette after spending the last eight seasons with Saint Louis. He started as a volunteer assistant, spent three years as assistant coach, and has been associate head coach for Katie Shields since 2020. The Billikens were a terror in that time, running off a record of 131-30-11 and rattling off a mark of 67-6-5 in Atlantic 10 play, including going unbeaten in the league in each of the past two seasons. They qualified for each of the last six NCAA tournaments, winning at least one game three times and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history in 2023.
“Today is a bittersweet day,” Allen said. “I have always dreamt of being a Division I head coach, but I’m leaving behind a program and people who hold a very special place in my heart. I simply cannot express the amount of appreciation and gratitude I have for the SLU community. I am extremely proud of what we accomplished on the field, but more importantly, of the culture we built, the graduates we helped produce, and the raised profile of women’s soccer in St. Louis to which we contributed.
”Eight years ago, I was teaching freshman biology and coaching varsity girls’ soccer at Webster Groves High School,” Allen said. “(Head coach) Katie Shields, (Director of Athletics) Chris May and (Deputy Director of Athletics) Dr. Janet Oberle took a chance on me. Their belief in me, and their support and guidance over the past eight years, has changed my life and the lives of my family. I am forever indebted to them and could not have asked for better mentors.
”To all the players I was fortunate enough to coach, I feel very blessed to have been a small part of their collegiate journey. They are some of my favorite people in the world.
”Finally, Katie Shields,” Allen said. “I believe that she is, without question, the best women’s soccer coach in the country. But more than that, she is a friend, a confidant, and a daily inspiration for me. If I can be just half the head coach she is, we will be very successful at Marquette. I am sad to leave SLU, but that means my experience was well worth it. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along my journey. I had the time of my life being a Billiken. ROLL BILLS!”
The first thing that pops into my head upon understanding that Allen was SLU’s associate head coach is remembering that Pelaez was associate head coach for Markus Roeders until he departed after the 2014 season. Pelaez was in Milwaukee for all but one of Marquette’s NCAA tournament appearances and all but one of their conference championships, four in Conference USA and five in the Big East.
And putting Pelaez in charge of the program didn’t work.
The difference, of course, is that Allen is coming directly off a run of six straight NCAA tournament appearances whereas Pelaez took over a program that he had left five years earlier and that had fallen off in the interim. Allen comes to Milwaukee with in the trenches experience of what it takes to win Division 1 soccer games right this second, but we have to acknowleged that Pelaez was coming off a run at Loyola Chicago where the Ramblers had lost just one conference match in his final two seasons.
The fact of the matter is this: Marquette wasn’t going to make a knock your socks off hire here, not with the coaching change coming six weeks after the season ended. They did, however, hire a guy who has been on the sidelines of a team that’s been winning at a high level both in their league and on a national level as well. They hired a guy who has experience coaching at the high school level, rolling up a 164-71-5 record at Webster Groves High School in Saint Louis and producing over 30 collegiate level players in nine seasons.
This is a good hire given the circumstances that Bill Scholl was put in to make the hire.
Will it pan out? That’s why they play the games.
Allen takes over a program that hasn’t had a winning season since going 9-8-0 in 2021 and hasn’t won 10 or more games since 2017. He takes over a program that hasn’t qualified for the Big East tournament since that same year and that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2016. In the first decade of the 21st century, you couldn’t tell the story of Division 1 women’s college soccer without talking about Marquette. By his own words, it’s Allen’s goal to make that the case again. That quest begins in seven months.