SOCCER: Ball State picks UT Martin's Craig Roberts as new coach

Roberts replaces Michael Lovett, who was fired in mid-November

After nearly three months of searching for a new soccer coach, Ball State University announced Wednesday the hiring of Craig Roberts to take over the program.

Roberts, who has coached at the University of Tennessee at Martin since 2006, fills the vacancy that has been open since former coach Michael Lovett was fired by Ball State in mid-November.

He will just be the program's fourth head coach in its history.

"I wanted to come here because of the prestigious record Ball State has had over the years," Roberts said. "Ball State has been able to produce quality teams that contend for [Mid-American Conference] championships."

Roberts led UT Martin to a combined record of 34-27-12 in four seasons. In the past three seasons, the Skyhawks were 19-3-1 on their home field. In his most recent season, UT Martin went 9-7-0 and won its first Ohio Valley Conference championship in program history.

Roberts said he hopes he can bring similar success to the Cardinals.

"I'm going to bring dedication and commitment to the table," he said. "I want to strive to make Ball State a well respected program academically and athletically."

Roberts said he will hold a team meeting Friday where he will meet the team in person for the first time.

Sophomore defender Tina Vannatta said she's optimistic that Roberts can bring the program back to a contender in the MAC.

"He is a very demanding coach but we are really excited and ready for the new change," she said. "I really feel like he can turn this program around and get us back to the top of the MAC. He will be very good for this program."

Vannatta said she believes Roberts is the right coach for the program because of his successes at other schools. She also believes his new tactics and focus on team chemistry will help build the team back up from two straight losing seasons.

Before his coaching career, Roberts, a native of Kidderminster, England, played as a right and center defensive back for semi-professional and professional teams in England, such as Oxford United, the Kidderminster Harriers, Worcester City and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"I think my playing experiences enhances my ability to relate to my players," Roberts said. "I believe when you try to teach players it has to be based on your own personal experiences. My playing experience allows me to pass what I know onto my players."

Ball State will play their spring season as planned, which Roberts believes will help for next season. He wants to introduce his new tactics in the spring and use them in a competitive environment. Roberts said because they will be getting a late start, the spring season will be tailored accordingly.

"The focus on goal will be improvements everyday, in practice and in games. We have to take one step at a time," Roberts said. "I would be delighted to have success in my first year and contend for a MAC championship, but my hope is that small steps lead to success."

Meet Craig Roberts
- Native of Kidderminster, England
- 34-27-12 in four seasons as head coach at UT Martin prior to being hired at Ball State on Wednesday
- His father, Gordon, played soccer for the Wolverhamptom Wanderers and was captain of the Welsh National Team in the 1960s
- Played professional and semi-professional soccer with Worcester City, Kidderminster Harriers, Oxford United and Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Began coaching career at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City, Mo.
- Has been an assistant coach at Saint Mary's College in California and Virginia Military Institute