Legendary UConn men's soccer coach Joe Morrone died Wednesday night after a bout with cancer. He was 79.
Morrone elevated the Huskies to the status of national powerhouse, a standard continued by his successor, Ray Reid. From 1969 to 1996, Morrone won 422 games, three Big East championships and three Final Fours.
UConn reached the pinnacle in 1981, defeating Alabama A&M in overtime to win the national championship.
"He was a UConn legend who touched the lives of so many," UConn president Susan Herbst said Thursday. "As a coach, he led UConn to national prominence in the sport of men's soccer and was a leader and role model for his student-athletes...Coach Morrone was truly a UConn man and will be missed by all of us."
One of Morrone's greatest contributions to the UConn men's soccer program was the founding of the Friends of Soccer organization. Together, Morrone and Friends of Soccer helped raise more than $2 million in support of the program, and members have made other important impacts on the program.
Morrone's daughter and two sons were successful on the field for UConn. Joe Morrone Jr. played three seasons at UConn, winning the Hermann Trophy in 1980 as the country's best collegiate soccer player. Bill Morrone was a member of the 1981 national championship team and was a 1982 All-American. Melissa (Morrone) Taintor was an All-American on the women's soccer team in 1983.
Following a vote by the Board of Trustees, UConn's stadium, known originally as Connecticut Soccer Stadium, was renamed Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in honor of the coach in 1997.
Sitting by the corner flag near the UConn bench, Morrone was at the stadium named in his honor Sunday night. In a heavy rainstorm, UConn overcame a late 1-0 deficit, scoring two goals in 2:19 in the final eight minutes to beat No. 19 UC-Santa Barbara. Following the final whistle, the entire UConn team ran to the corner to celebrate with Morrone.
"Coach Morrone is the godfather of UConn men's soccer," Reid said in a statement Thursday. "We love him and we are respectful of all he accomplished. I know that what I have today in large part comes from 28 years of Coach Morrone's labor here and we've been able to build on his legacy and continue his outstanding tradition of excellence with student-athletes both in the classroom and on the field. Joe Morrone is UConn Soccer....and he will always be UConn Men's Soccer."