A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKU names Tom Poitras new men’s soccer coach, the fifth in its history, from University of Hartford

A new era in Northern Kentucky University men’s soccer begins with new coach Tom Poitras, named the fifth men’s soccer coach in Norse history.

Poitras comes to NKU from the University of Hartford, where he has established the Hawks as a perennial America East Conference power since his 2011 arrival. Poitras has been a winner at multiple programs in his 28-year head coaching career, during which he has amassed a 269-186-71 (.579) record.

Poitras entered the 2021 season with the 25th-most victories (265) among all active Division I coaches and the 45th-best career win percentage (.588) among active NCAA Division I coaches. Among his resume highlights, Poitras led Southern New Hampshire University to four NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002) and Wisconsin-Green Bay (2009) to another. His Hartford teams were America East Championship finalists five times, most recently in a historic 2019 campaign.

Hartford completed the nation’s top single-season turnaround in 2019, posting the second-best winning percentage (.667) and second-most victories under Poitras by virtue of a 12-5-4 overall record. That tally was an 11-win improvement over the previous season. The 2019 Hawks also advanced to the America East Championship game.

Tom Poitras

Poitras’ defense posted 10 shutouts in 2019, the second-most in Hartford’s Division I history, trailing only his 2013 squad (11 shutouts). The Hawks also engineered an 11-game unbeaten streak in 2019 – the program’s best stretch of games without a loss since Hartford became a Division I team in 1984.  

Poitras’ time at Hartford included an unprecedented 2021 season conducted in the spring due to the pandemic. The Hawks went 3-3-1 against America East foes in the abbreviated campaign. Fueled by six All-Conference honorees, including a pair of First Team selections, Hartford advanced to the America East Tournament semifinals.

“I am excited to have Coach Poitras lead the Norse Men’s Soccer program. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated the ability to build successful programs on and off the field. His passion for coaching and desire to build a championship level program at NKU shined during the search process,” said Dan McIver, NKU’s Deputy Athletic Director.

“Having worked with Coach Poitras previously (at Wisconsin-Green Bay), I saw firsthand his dedication and commitment to his student-athletes. They have always been, and will continue to be, his top priority. I am grateful to have an individual with his integrity leading our men’s soccer program.”

Poitras’ success has extended into the classroom. The Hawks had 23 America East All-Academic Team members, including a program-record four in both 2013 and 2014. The Hawks also produced a pair of America East Elite 18 honorees, an honor that recognizes the student-athlete with the highest GPA among all participants in the America East Championship Game, in Jake Slomski (2016) and Jimmy Slayton (2019).
Under Poitras, the men’s soccer team was at the front of the pack in the classroom in 2021, leading Hartford’s men’s squads with a 3.53 GPA during the spring semester. Most impressively, 85% of the roster — a total of 23 student-athletes — received America East Academic Honor Roll distinction after posting a GPA of 3.0 or better that semester.

Poitras and Hartford men’s soccer program reached a milestone in 2013 when Damion Lowe, a three-year defender, became the first Hawk in 17 years to get drafted by a Major League Soccer squad. Lowe was drafted eighth overall by the Seattle Sounders, marking the second-highest pick among all of Hartford’s 17 Division I sports. During Poitras’ coaching career, more than 20 of his players have gone on to play professionally.

Poitras also brought in several top recruiting classes in his four stops as a head coach. He has developed 13 All-Americans as well as 46 All-Region and 117 All-Conference members.

“I’m excited to welcome Coach Poitras to NKU and Norse Nation! Tom is a proven leader of young people,” Northern Kentucky University Director of Athletics Ken Bothof said. “He continues to find ways to connect with his student-athletes while promoting athletic and academic success. I look forward to our soccer program achieving at high levels in the Horizon League!”

Prior to Hartford, Poitras led Wisconsin-Green Bay to four Horizon League Championship Game appearances in seven seasons. Poitras guided the Phoenix to a history-making 2009 season in which it earned its first-ever Horizon League Championship and made its first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in 26 years.

Poitras spent six years at Southern New Hampshire, where his teams went 81-25-16. His post there included four NCAA Division II Tournament appearances and five seasons with 10-plus victories. In 2002, Poitras took the Penmen to the NCAA Division II Championship game and was named the NSCAA New England Region Coach of the Year.

Poitras’ coaching career began with a four-year stint at the University of New Haven, where he orchestrated one of the nation’s top single-season turnarounds. He guided the Chargers to back-to-back 10-win seasons after inheriting a squad that posted just five victories prior to his arrival. Selected as the New England Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year in 1996, Poitras’ 1997 team posted a 15-6-1 record.

Poitras played college soccer at Southern Connecticut State from 1987-91. He served as a four-year starter for the Owls and led the team to a Division II National Championship in 1987. After graduating from Southern Connecticut in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure studies, he went on the play two seasons at the professional level with the Connecticut Wolves of the Interregional Soccer League.

Poitras was inducted into Southington’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Connecticut Hall of Fame in 2016.
He holds a USSF ‘A’ coaching license, USSF National Youth License and NSCAA Premier Diploma. He works as a US Soccer Developmental Academy Scout and has served as an Olympic Development staff coach in Regions I and II. He also was a USSF Coaches Licensing Program Associate Director in Connecticut.

Poitras and his wife, Alison, have two children, Ian and Ella.

“I want to thank Ken Bothof, Dan McIver and the entire search committee for trusting me to lead the Norse Soccer program. I am very impressed with all the success of Norse Nation and so many of its sports programs, and I look forward to working hard to ensure the men’s soccer program is adding to these successes,” Poitras said.

“I am excited to start building relationships on and off the field with the current student-athletes, the campus and local communities and our NKU alumni as we begin preparations for next season.”

Poitras takes over a Norse program with a rich tradition of success, including a Division II national championship in 2010. Since its inception in 1980, the program has amassed a 421-327-69 overall record (.557 winning percentage), eight conference titles and 14 All-Americans, including the 2010 DII National Player of the Year, Steven Beattie. The Norse remained competitive throughout the Division I transition, which began in 2012 and included two winning seasons en route to a 30-31-15 record during the four-year reclassification period.

The 2020 season was NKU’s most successful yet in Division I. The Norse won the Horizon League regular-season championship and reached the Horizon League Tournament championship match. NKU achieved its first national ranking as a Division I program, reaching as high as No. 22 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll. It also ascended to No. 17 in the RPI and third in the United Soccer Coaches North Region.

The Norse also excelled in the classroom in the 2020-21 academic year, finishing with a 3.45 cumulative GPA in the fall and a 3.46 in the spring.

Northern Kentucky University Athletics  

Related Posts

Leave a Comment