Notre Dame's victory over Oregon State at Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium) W, 1-0 on September 7, 2012.
BJ Craig, who was promoted to associate head coach in February of 2013, is entering his seventh season on the Notre Dame staff in 2014. The Fighting Irish have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success with Craig on the sidelines, posting a 76-31-21 record and winning the 2013 national championship in addition to capturing three conference titles.
In his six seasons, Notre Dame has produced five All-Americans, 28 all-conference selections, three conference players of the year and 18 MLS draft picks. The program also has excelled in the classroom, boasting five Academic All-America honorees and 10 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar All-America selections, including two NSCAA Scholar-Athletes of the Year.
The Fighting Irish have earned a bid to the NCAA Championship in five of Craig's six seasons with the program and they have garnered one of the tournament's 16 national seeds on four occasions, including the top overall seed in 2012.
Notre Dame finished the national title-winning 2013 campaign with a remarkable 17-1-6 record while playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country. The Irish opened the season with a 13-game unbeaten streak, which catapulted them to No. 1 in the national polls for the first time in program history. After suffering their lone loss of the season to Virginia, 2-0, the Fighting Irish finished the campaign with a 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) and outscored their opponents 25-8 during that stretch en route to the title. In their five-game run through the NCAA tournament, the Fighting Irish owned a 14-4 scoring advantage over their competition.
The 2013 season also saw the Fighting Irish claim a share of the ACC regular-season title during their first year in the challenging league. Notre Dame and Maryland both finished conference play with 7-1-3 records, which included a 1-1 tie between the two schools during the regular season. The Irish would get the ultimate upper hand when they took down the Terrapins, 2-1, in the national title game at PPL Park.
Craig's work did not go unnoticed as he was selected as the 2013 NSCAA South Region Assistant Coach of the Year. Craig, along with assistant coaches Greg Dalby and Vern Gingerich, helped head coach Bobby Clark earn national coach-of-the-year honors from the NSCAA and Soccer America along with being tapped as the ACC Coach of the Year.
Several Notre Dame players received accolades for their performances in 2013. Senior forward Harrison Shipp was a finalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy and copped first team All-America honors, while fifth-year senior Grant Van De Casteele was a third team All-American. The Fighting Irish boasted six all-ACC selections, headlined by Shipp, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
Following the season, Shipp signed with the Chicago Fire as a "Homegrown Player" and the Colorado Rapids selected Van De Casteele in the first round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. That gave Notre Dame three first-round picks in the last two seasons as Ryan Finley (Columbus Crew) and Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids) both went in the opening round of the 2013 SuperDraft and Powers would go on to win the MLS Rookie of the Year Award.
That was the latest MLS hardware for some of Craig's former Fighting Irish pupils. Matt Besler is a three-time MLS All-Star, two-time MLS Best XI selection, the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year and he captained Sporting KC to the 2013 MLS Cup. Justin Morrow started the 2012 MLS All-Star Game while he was a member of the San Jose Earthquakes (now with Toronto FC).
Besler and Morrow established another monumental moment for the Fighting Irish program as they became the first Notre Dame alums to earn a cap with the United States Senior National Team when they started on the backline in a friendly versus Canada on Jan. 29, 2013. Besler has gone on to earn over 20 caps with the U.S. and he started all four matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Craig has witnessed other Fighting Irish players experience success on the international level. Powers and Aaron Maund both were members of the United States team that competed at the 2009 U-20 World Cup in Egypt. In August of 2010, Powers was named the MVP of the Milk Cup Tournament as he helped lead the U.S. U-20 squad to the title. Bright Dike has played in multiple games with the Nigerian National Team and he became the first Notre Dame alum to score a goal for a senior national team when he deposited the equalizer in a friendly against Catalonia on Jan. 2, 2013.
During Craig's first season at Notre Dame in 2008, the squad won the BIG EAST Blue Division and earned the No. 12 seed for the NCAA Championship before finishing with a 12-7-2 record.
The Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) selected Besler with the eighth overall pick of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. That marked the highest a Fighting Irish player had ever been nabbed in the SuperDraft. Jack Traynor went to the New York Red Bulls in the second round.
In 2009, Notre Dame posted an 11-8-4 record and finished second in the BIG EAST Blue Division along with being the BIG EAST Championship runner-up. Six Notre Dame players garnered all-BIG EAST honors in `09. Dike, the conference leader in points (26) and goals (11), was named the league's top offensive player. Michael Thomas, an Academic All-American, joined Dike on the all-BIG EAST first team. Dike, Thomas and Morrow all were selected in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
The Irish garnered the No. 9 seed for the 2010 NCAA Championship and finished the season with a 10-6-4 record. Five Notre Dame student-athletes received all-BIG EAST accolades in 2010. Headlining the honorees were first-team selections Jeb Brovsky and Steven Perry, who led all BIG EAST players in goals with 12 and was tied for the points lead with 28. Brovsky, Perry and Bilal Duckett were picked in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, while Philip Tuttle was taken in the supplemental draft.
Craig copped accolades of his own in 2010 as he was named one of the top 20 assistant coaches in NCAA Division I men's soccer according to College Soccer News.
Notre Dame registered a 9-5-4 record in 2011 and narrowly missed out on a spot in the NCAA tournament field. The Fighting Irish boasted three all-BIG EAST honorees, including Maund, who was a first-team selection. The Fighting Irish sent three players into the MLS following the `11 campaign. Maund and Brendan King were chosen in the SuperDraft, while Greg Klazura went in the supplemental draft.
The 2012 season was one of the top campaigns in program history as the Irish won their first seven matches en route to a 17-4-1 record, which signified the most wins for the Irish since 1988. Notre Dame won the BIG EAST Championship, its final before moving to the ACC, and garnered the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Championship for the first time.
Notre Dame boasted two first team All-Americans in Finley and Powers and that duo was among five Irish players that garnered all-BIG EAST accolades for the season. In addition, Finley was named the 2012 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy.
Craig joined the Notre Dame program after being an assistant coach at the University of Louisville during the 2007 campaign. In his lone season at Louisville, Craig helped guide the Cardinals to an 11-7-4 record and a berth in the NCAA Championship. The Cardinals finished second in the BIG EAST's Red Division before advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Prior to his time at Louisville, Craig had a four-year stint (2003-06) as head coach at Saint Francis University (Pa.). Craig posted a 31-31-13 record at Saint Francis and left with the second-most wins in program history. He led the Red Flash to their first two Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament appearances and also produced the program's first winning season during the 2004 campaign en route to being named the NEC Coach of the Year. Craig led Saint Francis to a 27-19-11 record, including an 18-11-7 mark in the NEC, over his final three seasons. The Red Flash notched a winning record in each of those three seasons and he developed two NSCAA all-region honorees and seven all-conference selections.
Craig led his 2006 Saint Francis team to the school's first-ever appearance in the NEC championship match. He guided the Red Flash to a 10-7-3 mark, which tied a school record that was previously set in Craig's second season with the program in 2004.
Craig joined the Red Flash staff after serving as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College from 1998-2003. In the fall of 2002, he helped lead the perennial Ivy League power to a conference championship and a 9-7-1 overall record. The Big Green posted a 5-1-1 league mark and finished the `02 season ranked third in the Northeast Region. Craig also helped direct the Big Green to an NCAA tournament berth in 2000.
Prior to joining the Dartmouth staff, Craig served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Gordon College, in Wenham, Mass., from 1995-96. During his tenure at Gordon, the Fighting Scots posted a 30-8-4 record and qualified for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament both seasons.
Craig, a native of Westford, Mass., is a 1993 graduate of Gordon College with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He earned one varsity letter at the University of Massachusetts Lowell before transferring to Gordon College, where he lettered twice. Craig helped Gordon College to the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship in 1992. He earned a master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1997. He is a member of the NSCAA and holds a USSF B License.
Craig and his wife, Erin, are the parents of four children, Noah (17), Micah (15), Jonah (12) and Mattea (10).
The BJ Craig File
Assistant Coach, Gordon College
Assistant Coach, Dartmouth College
Head Coach, Saint Francis University (Pa.)
Assistant Coach, University of Louisville
Assistant Coach, University of Notre Dame
University of Massachusetts Lowell
NSCAA All-Americans who Craig coached at Notre Dame (5):
Matt Besler - 2008 (First Team)
Ryan Finley - 2012 (First Team)
Dillon Powers - 2012 (First Team)
Harrison Shipp - 2013 (First Team)
Grant Van De Casteele - 2013 (Third Team)
MLS Draft Picks who Craig coached at Notre Dame (18):