Pranathi Chitta
Mercury Staff

Retired staff member becomes first coach to receive honor after leading Comets through 15 winning seasons, 5 championships during time at UTD

A former head coach of the UTD men’s soccer team has been inducted into the UTD Athletics Hall of Honors, marking the first time in program history that a head coach has received the honor. 

Jack Peel, who retired from coaching the men’s soccer team in 2013 after a 15-year stint, was inducted on Oct. 16. Former players Lyndsey Smith, Kyleigh Irish-Gaddy and Scott Maurer were also honored with induction.

“I’ve been a little bit embarrassed about it,” Peel said. “It’s a little bit hard for me to express how to feel about it. I’m proud to have been honored for this and to have been recognized.” 

Peel said since he began coaching the team in 1998, he faced obstacles on the journey to get the team to where it is today. 

“The biggest obstacle we had was getting the word out,” Peel said. “The biggest issue that we had with recruiting and bringing teams in for all sports was no one knew what the University of Texas at Dallas was, and furthermore, no one knew we had athletics.”

Peel was honored as ASC Coach of the Year four times and led the soccer team to two ASC titles in 2004 and 2007. 

“It was difficult,” Peel said. “We went into DIII and most of the universities didn’t want UTD in the ASC since we were a public school, and all the other teams were private schools.”

Trent Abbot, a former UTD soccer player, said in spite of the difficulties Peel faced, he coached a successful team of athletes who will remember him for a long time.

“I give him a lot credit for my success,”  Abbott said. “I could’ve never been successful as a player at UTD without Coach Peel. He’s probably, arguably, the most successful coach I’ve ever played for.”

Abbott played on the soccer team from 1999 to 2003, when Peel had just begun coaching the team.

“He is very knowledgeable as a coach,” Abbott said. “He demanded the best. I wanted to hear that constructive criticism – that made me a stronger player and a stronger individual as a whole.”

Peel retired from the team in 2013 with an all-time record of 193-77-23 and had led the team to two NCAA DIII national tournament appearanaces. He still volunteers as an assistant coach for the soccer team. Jason Hirsch, the current head coach of the men’s soccer team, said Peel’s presence is an asset.

“I’m really happy that Jack is with us,” Hirsch said. “He enjoys training and evaluating players and all the ins and outs for getting a team to play games. It’s hard to see everything, but he’s seen everything.”

Hirsch played under Peel from 2001-2004, volunteered as a coach from 2005-2006 and became an assistant coach in 2007. 

“Coaching and playing for Jack was a great experience,” Hirsch said. “I learned a lot from Jack as a player, things I haven’t taught about the game before. He was able to teach us and push us to understand the game the right way as well as compete and have the right mindset.”

Hirsch said Peel contributed to the athletics department as a whole throughout his coaching career. 

 “He had a lot to do with the success of the athletics department,” he said. “Behind the scenes, he was doing a lot for all the sports.”

Peel’s coaching career spans over 20 years, varying from coaching middle school to collegiate soccer teams. He said he’s learned a lot about student athletes throughout his experiences.

“I have a vision for how things are done, and you let people know specifically what your expectations are,” Peel said. “If you as a student athlete push yourself, I think that helps you later in life to know what you’re capable of.”