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Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

Former Michigan soccer players shocked by Steve Burns' resignation

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan soccer coach Steve Burns (above) announced his resignation on Wednesday after 12 years with the program. file photo

Last year at this time, Justin Meram, Soony Saad and Michigan soccer coach Steve Burns were preparing for the College Cup, NCAA soccer’s Final Four. Now Saad and Meram are enjoying success as professionals in Major League Soccer, and Burns is out of the job.

Burns — selected NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 2010 by FieldTurf — resigned Wednesday night stating, “it's time for a new direction in my life and leadership for Michigan soccer," in an announcement put out by the University.

Meram was shocked to learn the news.

“I was pretty upset about it, actually,” Meram said in a phone interview. “What Steve has done for the Michigan program, nobody will ever do. You’ll never find another coach that’s all for Michigan the way Steve is.”

Meram, drafted by the Columbus Crew in the first round of last year’s MLS SuperDraft and who recently had his contract extended, said he spoke with Burns on Tuesday and nothing seemed amiss.

“He told me he was busy recruiting and seemed excited about the guys he was looking at, like he always is,” Meram said.

Saad, who now plays for Sporting KC, said the former teammates he keeps in contact with never indicated they knew nothing of a pending resignation.

“Nobody even hinted at it. I keep in close contact with Fabio (Villas Boas Pereira), some other guys (on the team) and they never said anything,” Saad said. “It’s been a rebuilding season, obviously, not as good as last season, but things were in place to be good next year.”

According to a Michigan Daily report, current team members were informed of the resignation Wednesday at a meeting.

Michigan returned just four starters from its 2010 Big Ten championship team that set a program record for victories in a season (17). Michigan went 5-14-1, 1-5 in conference play, and was ousted in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Meram graduated, but Saad (a second team All-America and Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season) and his brother Hamoody Saad — a two-year starter — left the program early. Between Meram and the Saad brothers, the Wolverines lost 67 percent of their offense.

The team was also caught off guard by the departure of goalkeeper Chris Blais, who transferred to the University of South Florida prior to the season. Blais started every game for Michigan in the 2010 season as he has for South Florida this year, which is preparing to play in the NCAA quarterfinals this weekend. Blais was allowed to play immediately at USF due to an NCAA rule that allows graduates with a year of eligibility to transfer without penalty.

“It’s tough, that happens to you late and it’s not like you can just go pick players off of a tree,” Burns said earlier in the season.

“I think that we had a tougher time with it just because of the losses of the (players) that went pro that we didn’t expect to go pro. We didn’t think that it was in their best situation for them to go pro,” Burns said.

There was also a lot of turnover on Burns’ coaching staff this year with associate head coach Paul Snape taking the head coaching job at Butler University. Adam Bruh, a volunteer assistant under Burns last year, took a job on Snape’s staff and Burns’ other assistant coach, Chris Grassie, was hired as the head coach at University of Charleston.

Grassie and Snape both declined to comment for this story.

“With players and coaches leaving, of course it’s going to be rough, the Big Ten is rough,” Meram said. “I’m at a loss for words.”

Saad said he hopes to see Burns on the sidelines soon.

“I’ve known Coach Burns from young age, and he’s inspired me,” Saad said. “He was a winner, he wanted something and got it. The drive to College Cup really showed his potential.”

Burns is the only head coach the varsity team has known, serving in that capacity since the program was elevated from club status in 2000. In 12 seasons, his teams were 122-98-22 with a 27-38-8 mark in Big Ten Conference play. Burns also served as the head coach for Michigan's club team from 1993-99, winning national championships in 1997 and 1998.

Burns could not be reached for comment, nor could representatives from Michigan.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Sandria Kellermann

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Thank you Steve for all you have done for this community, our troops and families, our kids who needed your passion and belief in them as little human beings, for your heart and the many years you served this university. I pray this resignation is for YOU and no one else as this is a sad day for us all. My son is in tears and I am sure he is not the only kid who will miss your awesome summer camps and our family friendly soccer games at Mens Soccer. What a loss for us, but you deserve only the best for you and your family ! GO BLUE !!


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

Seems a little strange.... I hope their isn't more to this.... But all the tears are unfound. He build a legecy, prays him for that.... Maybe Dave Brandon can pull another coupe De'gracy (that's Bugs Bunny for...coup d'├ętat, that is, if any of you are old enough too know who or have watched any 'Original' loony toons, now that their band from t.v.). A coupe De'gracy and Land Big Blue a Blue chip coach from Duke er sump'in Im not much for the garden Gnome game, But, that being said...I support all U-M sports equally, even backet weaving.... I know, some of the sensitive types will take oh'fence to that.....I admire the skill and stamina it takes.... I'm not lost on that.... GO BLUE


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 4:01 a.m.

Pete - thanks for the coverage. We have followed this program and Coach Burns from the beginning...he has been the driving force behind transforming UM Men's Soccer from a Club Sport to a Nationally recognized Varsity program. It is inconceivable that he would resign from this position. Last year, he led the team to a Final Four appearance, narrowly losing to the eventual National Champions - on top of that, he was voted Coach of the Year by FieldTurf. It would be of great interest to learn more of the reasons behind the resignation. Was this driven by the University, the players, or was it truly Coach's decision? Coach Burns - thank you so much for your years of devotion and dedication. Yours in Soccer Go Blue!


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Thank you Steve for everything you've done for U of M soccer and the game of soccer overall. You've been a great representative of the University and the game. I know a 7 year old in Wisconsin who will be disappointed as he wanted to play for you at Michigan. Best wishes.