Shortly after Kansas State introduced him as the school’s inaugural women’s soccer coach Wednesday, Mike Dibbini made a few promises.
To all that will attend K-State matches – starting in 2016, likely at Memorial Stadium in the heart of campus – he said to expect lots of goals, an up-tempo style modeled after his favorite professional league, Spain’s La Liga, and, most importantly, a roster built around in-state players.
“I want to build a base of Kansas players,” Dibbini said, “and then blend in some West Coast and East Coast players. I want our base to be blue-collar, hard-working players from Kansas. Recruiting those players is the No. 1 priority right now.”
K-State athletic director John Currie said he hired Dibbini over an applicant pool containing more than 140 names, in part, because he thinks Dibbini is the man to find soccer talent in a state that historically has been overlooked. This past season, five Sunflower State natives played in the Big 12. Four attended Kansas, the other Oklahoma.
“There are talented players here, you just have to go out looking for them,” Dibbini said, “and use the right resources and coaches and networks that you have to find them. A lot of them end up going to other schools in other states, because it is an untapped area. But they are there.”
Much needs to be done before K-State plays its first match in the fall semester of 2016. The Wildcats need to renovate their grass football practice fields into an area soccer can practice on. They need to complete small renovations to Memorial Stadium, used for football and track before construction of Snyder Family Stadium in 1968. And they need to create a schedule for their first year. After that transition, they will be full-fledged members of the Big 12 in 2017, playing a complete conference schedule.
Dibbini comes to K-State from Cal Poly Pomona, a Division II program where he went 21-13-6 in two seasons. He has also worked at NAIA Kansas Wesleyan in Salina, where he won 244 games and 24 conference titles coaching the men’s and women’s programs.
K-State will pay him $92,500 in his first year, with his salary increasing $2,500 annually over the life of a five-year contract.
Starting from scratch doesn’t bother Dibbini. In fact, he embraces it, especially at a program he already refers to as “my dream job” and “a destination.” With some in-state talent, he thinks he can win.
“I am very confident that we will be competitive,” Dibbini said. “Based on my experience with the Cal Poly job, people told me I was going to the top conference in the country and it was going to take me three to five years. Well, my second year I think we did pretty good. I am very confident we can do the same here.”