Shortly after Kansas State formally introduced him as the school’s inaugural women’s socceer coach Wednesday, Mike Dibbini made a few promises.
To all who will attend K-State soccer matches starting in 2016 — likely at Memorial Stadium in the heart of campus — Dibbini 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 hired Dibbini over a large 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, only five Sunflower State natives played in the Big 12. Four of them attended Kansas. The other was at Oklahoma.
He thinks that number will rise with the creation of the K-State women’s soccer team.
“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 soccer match in the fall of 2016. The Wildcats need to renovate their grass football practice fields into an area the soccer team can practice on. They need to complete small renovations to Memorial Stadium, which was used for football and track before the construction of KSU Stadium — now Bill Snyder Family Stadium. They also need 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.
Competing against established programs won’t be easy, especially early, but Dibbini is determined to make it happen.
Starting from scratch doesn’t bother him. 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.”
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 Kansas Wesleyan of the NAIA, where he won 244 games and 24 conference titles coaching both 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 during a five-year contract.