When Bobby Rhine arrived to play college soccer at the University of Connecticut, the once-revered program was mired in a five-year NCAA Tournament drought that extended through Rhine’s junior year into 1996. After Bobby’s junior year, long-time head coach Joe Morrone resigned and UConn turned to head coach Ray Reid to hopefully return the prestigious program back to national prominence.
“When I took over for Coach Marrone, Bobby was [going to be] a senior,” Reid said on Friday. “I was hired around Christmas and Bobby came back [from winter break] and two weeks into training for his senior year he came to me and said ‘coach I really like what you’re doing, how about I redshirt this year and give you a year to get players while I get my masters.’”
“This is a guy who played [a decade] in MLS. The year after [his redshirt] we went 15-0, finished 19-4 and got into the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. He was a great kid. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful guy.”
Indeed, Rhine helped to lay the foundation for the rebirth of the Huskies soccer program taking an incredibly unselfish redshirt, forcing him to sit out the 1997 season. The redshirt seems all the more remarkable when you consider Rhine was a third-team NSCAA All-American as well as Big East All-Conference in his 1996 junior season.
The decision to put MLS off for another year certainly paid off, however, as in ’98, Rhine’s final year in the NCAA, UConn advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years. In that 1998 season, Rhine captained the team scoring 15 goals, one of the highest single-season totals in school history, leading to an NSCAA Second-Team All-American award and, of course, a #6 overall selection by the then Dallas Burn in the 1999 Major League Soccer Draft, the first Husky to ever be drafted into MLS.
Rhine finished his career ranked in the top ten in program history in both overall points and goals and was named the UConn Club Outstanding Senior Scholar-Athlete in 1998.
The year after in 1999, the Huskies won the Big East and advanced to the NCAA semifinals. Then in 2000, two years after Rhine’s graduation, Reid led Connecticut to their second NCAA National Championship in program history.
The rest, as they say, is history and as Reid’s Huskies prepare for Sunday’s inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game vs. South Florida at Toyota Stadium(1:00PM) with 15-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, it’s not hard to look back at an FC Dallas legend’s selfless act to see where it all began.