On Friday, it was announced that Drew Courtney, who has overseen the Bryan College men’s soccer program for the past five seasons, has ended his time as the Lions’ Head Coach and will pursue other business opportunities.
"Stepping away from leading the young men in our soccer program was not an easy decision, but the right one for my family at this time,” said Coach Courtney. “I want to thank my players for the opportunity to lead them for the past five years. What an opportunity it was to serve them.
I am very grateful to Taylor Hasty for giving me the opportunity back in 2014, and for the wonderful relationships built in the athletic department over the years. I wish the program nothing but the best in the future."
After spending three seasons at Covenant College (Ga.), Courtney came to Bryan at the start of the 2014 season and has guided the Lions to extraordinary success ever since. In his first year at the helm, the Chattanooga. Tenn. native helped lead Bryan to a sixth-place regular-season finish in the Appalachian Athletic Conference before shocking third-seeded Union College (Ky.) in the opening round of conference tournament play. The run was finally brought to an end by the eventual AAC tournament champions in St. Andrews University (N.C.), but the efforts of the Lions did not go unnoticed, as four were named to the All-Conference First Team, five were honored as All-Academic Team members, and Bryan swept both Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year awards. The drive to improve and compete at a higher level could be recognized in the challenging lineups that Coach Courtney put together. In his season debut, Courtney and the Lions faced-off against three separate teams who each spent time as the No. 1 team in the country.
It was no different in the following year when Bryan battled a trio of top-ranked schools, with one being a top-5 team and another in the top-10. After receiving a projection of fifth place in the AAC Preseason Polls, Coach Courtney and the team set out to prove the conference wrong. In convincing fashion, the Lions captured the 2015 AAC Regular-Season crown with an overall record of 12-4-2 and an undefeated conference mark of 8-0-1. Bryan won the last five matches of the regular-season, including an upset of No. 10 Union. Coach Courtney steered the Lions to a remarkable finish despite the challenge of 14 new faces added to the team. His accomplishments throughout the year earned him the AAC Coach of the Year award. Bryan had numerous individual accolades, including a Golden Boot and Freshman of the Year winner who was just recently selected in the MLS draft by Columbus Crew SC. Five Lions received First Team honors, another made the Second Team, and six earned All-Academic recognition.
The 2016 regular-season ended with the Lions a notable 14-1-3 overall and 7-1-1 in conference play, which was good enough for the top-ranked Bryan squad to earn a No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament. Even though the Lions came up short to the eighth-ranked Union Bulldogs in the AAC tournament title match, they pieced together an outstanding year, knocking off three top-25 opponents and two more that received votes. Coach Courtney had overseen a team that outscored the other side 56-16 and managed only one regular-season loss while climbing to as high as 10th in the nation, which helped Bryan earn the second At-Large bid to the Opening Round of the 2016 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship. The historic run by the Lions finally came to a halt at the hands of the Crossroads Tournament Champion, Spring Arbor University (Mich.). Bryan had compiled Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, four All-Conference First Team, two All-Conference Second Team, and 10 All-Academic honorees. The Defensive Player of the Year was another success story from the Lions’ historically strong team, as he went on to play for NPSL side Chattanooga FC before signing with Nashville SC ahead of their inaugural USL campaign at the beginning of 2018. He and two others went on to receive NAIA All-American honors at the completion of the 2016 season.
Coach Courtney aided in lifting Bryan’s status come their 2017 campaign, as the AAC chose the Lions as the favorite to win the regular-season championship. Once again, the Lions roared their way to a phenomenal regular-season that resulted in a 13-5 overall record and 8-1 conference record, which gave way to a No. 2 seeding in the AAC Tournament. Throughout the year, the Lions overwhelmed three ranked opponents with one coming against a top-5 team. Bryan closed out the year in the semifinal round of the conference tournament, but the dominating play from the Lions helped deliver a 25th-place ranking in the final Coaches’ Top-25 poll, both AAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Golden Boot winner, six First Team selections, two Second Team members, and eight All-Academic honorees.
In their most recent season, Bryan was projected to finish second in the regular-season, and even though the Lions were unable to do so, Coach Courtney kept the team energized and prepared for a late rally come conference tournament time. Bryan’s 10-5-2 overall record and 6-3-1 AAC record remained impressive, but the conference has continued to become one of the powerhouses in the NAIA. After earning a fourth-seed, the Lions were focused and knew it would take more work to reach the finals, which is exactly what they accomplished. Bryan advanced to the semifinal round after defeating Union and then upset top-seeded Point University (Ga.) to vie for the crown in the AAC final against Reinhardt University (Ga.). The reigning conference regular-season champions in Reinhardt managed to escape the claws of the Lions, where they went on to make a mark in their own history books with the program’s first-ever visit to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. The Lions went on to have four make the All-AAC First Team, one make the All-AAC Second Team, and a total of 12 receive All-Academic Team honors.
Under the tutelage of Coach Courtney, Bryan men’s soccer has received recognition both nationally and within the AAC for the combination of academic and athletic success. In addition to several NAIA All-Americans, a conference championship, and the reputation as a top-ranked team, Coach Courtney has had countless Players of the Week by both the AAC and Tennessee Sports Writers Association while having the program’s first NAIA National Men’s Soccer Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week. 25 have been named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, five have been USC NAIA All-East Region honorees, and three have made the Google Cloud Academic All-District First Team with an individual repeating as a CoSIDA All-American 2nd Team member.
There are high expectations for the Lions’ 2019 season following their strong finish this year where they prevailed in 11 of their previous 13 matches prior to the AAC Championship match, including wins over both ranked opponents and others receiving votes. Because of Coach Courtney, Bryan will see a strong group of returners for next year, including a pair of 2018 All-AAC First Team players.
“Drew has done a phenomenal job leading our men’s soccer program,” said Bryan Athletic Director Mike Keen. “And we are sad to see him go, but we are thankful for his service to Bryan and our student-athletes, and we wish him and his family all the best.”