EISEN: End of the entertaining Jason Spain era

Jason Spain made my job too easy. So, it was only fair that on his resignation day, he put me to work.

In a press release sent out Wednesday afternoon — my scheduled day off — Spain announced his decision to step down from the Minot State women’s soccer team to accept the women’s soccer head coaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, a NCAA Division I program.

After having a profound impact on Minot’s soccer community, Spain made “probably the toughest decision of his life” and decided he couldn’t pass up another opportunity to lead a Division I program.

“I don’t know if I’m teaching my kids the right thing if I don’t swing the bat at my own dreams,” Spain said in a phone interview with the Minot Daily News on Wednesday. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve turned down other offers in the past, but this one is in the Midwest… This is tough.”

Over nine seasons, Spain built the Minot State women’s soccer program from the ground up. He was there at the very beginning in 2009 when the program was founded and competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). He helped the team make the transition to the next level and coached them to four NCAA Division II Tournament appearances.

The outspoken and vibrant head coach succeeded in putting the Beavers on the map.

The 109-53-18 overall record with an NSIC regular season and NSIC Tournament championship highlights the kind of success Spain had. But he didn’t stop there. Spain was also heavily involved in the Minot soccer youth community and embedded himself at the lower levels to help develop (and, more than likely, scout out) local talent.

Spain went the extra mile to build a sustainable foundation for a successful Division II women’s soccer program. And he wasn’t shy about promoting it either. Spain wanted people to take notice, even more so when it seemed like nobody was paying attention.

At times his brash tenacity got him into some hot water (especially with opposing coaches), but for the most part it was effective.

The obvious example was the infamous Coca Cola tirade in 2016, when Spain banged his fists on the press conference table to express his frustrations about the Beavers not getting any respect in the most recent national rankings. Senior star striker Ninfa Ramirez, sitting next to Spain, was startled by the incident and got splashed unexpectedly by an open bottle of Coca Cola that was on the table.

Spain doesn’t mince words and he has never been afraid to put his reputation on the line to benefit his team.

Love him or hate him, Jason Spain is authentic. Whether it was a practice, game day or a weekly press conferences, he wears his heart on his sleeve and tells it how it is — good, bad or otherwise.

If there was a media award for best quote giver in town, Spain would have won hands down.

I never had to worry about writing a dull soccer recap of a low-scoring game. I could count on Spain to bring life and thought-provoking quotes to any story. It didn’t matter if the Beavers won, lost or tied, Spain always had something interesting to say.

Wednesday afternoon, a more somber Spain struggled to keep his emotions in check when talking about his time in Minot.

“I’ve been touched by a lot of people, our family has too,” a choked-up Spain said over the phone. “I hope I’ve done the same. I know I’ve been blessed, and I’ve learned to be a better man here from a lot of people, from the soccer community and the Minot community.”

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is getting a coach that strives for excellence, and he won’t accept anything less. Also, someone who cares deeply and doesn’t lack personality.

He will be missed in Minot, especially when I’m fishing around for an extraordinary quote.

Best of luck on your future endeavors, Jason.

This is the opinion of Alex Eisen. He covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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