After five years at the helm, Rich Ryerson has completed the turnaround of the UNLV men's soccer program that he knew was possible as he led the Rebels to their best season in 24 years in 2014. The accomplishments were almost too many to list as UNLV swept the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles while earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. UNLV won its first five games of the year while knocking off 14th-ranked UMBC, and would earn its first national ranking since 1992 at 23rd by Soccer America. A school-record five players were named to the all-region team, while Ryerson saw one of his first-ever recruits, Salvador Bernal, became the third All-American in team history and get drafted by Toronto FC in the MLS following the season. Thanks to the overwhelming success of the season, Ryerson picked up both conference and regional Coach of the Year honors.
Ryerson was named the fifth head in program history on April 7, 2010, taking over the helm of the program after spending the previous two years as an assistant coach under former Rebel coach Mario Sanchez. "It was a dream come true, to become head coach at my alma mater," said Ryerson. "UNLV has made such a big impact on my life, it's been the foundation for everything I've accomplished and experienced in the sport of soccer."
In his first year as the Rebels' head coach, Ryerson took a team that had 11 newcomers and coached it to a 6-11-2 mark. Seven of the 11 losses were by one goal, and UNLV pulled off several impressive victories, including a win at Stanford and both a win and tie against MPSF Mountain champion Denver.
The Rebels struggled with injuries in 2011, but one big highlight was unheralded recruit Salvador Bernal of Las Vegas, a member of Ryerson' first recruiting class who became the second player in team history to be named MPSF Newcomer of the Year.
In Ryerson's third season, the Rebels pulled off several noteworthy outings, including home victories over Cal State Northridge and Air Force, both eventual NCAA Tournament squads. This past season, the Rebels earned their first conference winning season since 2002 at 5-4-1, while posting an overall record of 7-10-2.
Just as important as the coaching aspect of the job is Ryerson's fundraising accomplishments. In the summer of 2011 he was able to help UNLV secure an $850,000 donation from the Englestad foundation, as well as other donations to help ensure the stability of the men's program at UNLV for the next five years. Most recently, former men's coach Barry Barto led the effort (with assistance from Ryerson) to secure a one million dollar donation from the Hannah family in 2013. That brought the soccer specific fundraising total under to two million in a four year period.
One of four Ryerson brothers to play for the Rebels (Rob, Kenny, Tim), Rich Ryerson was a four-year starting defender/midfielder for the Rebels from 1983-86 and led UNLV to three NCAA tournament appearances and three straight conference championships during his first time in Las Vegas. In his junior season, the Rebels posted a program-best 18-2-2 mark and No. 4 final national ranking, and that 1985 squad was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 1, 2010.
A two-time all-region and all-conference selection, Ryerson scored 20 goals and had 20 assists. Ryerson started all 84 games during his time as a Rebel and still holds school records for both most career games played and most career starts. Ryerson was also named one of Soccer America's Top-10 Freshmen of the Year in 1983.
Ryerson graduated from UNLV in 1987 with a bachelor's of science degree in business administration. He went on to play a total of 10 years in several professional soccer leagues, including two in Kinna, Sweden, and finished his career in 1998 with the Baton Rouge Bombers of the Eastern Indoor Soccer League, where he was named the EISL's Defensive Player of the Year.
Beginning in 1994, Ryerson served as athletic director and physical education teacher for the Marywood-Palm Valley School, a K-12 program in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and he held that position until 2006 when he moved back to Las Vegas. He served as Director of Coaching for the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club for two years but stepped down from that position after accepting the Rebels' head job. In 2010, Ryerson was the Nevada State Vice President for US Youth Soccer before changing positions to Director of Coaching for the association after taking over at UNLV.
A native of Maryland, Ryerson was inducted into that state's Soccer Hall of Fame on May 11, 2012.