Michigan soccer coach Steve Burns recalls a time when he 'buck'ed the system
Steve Burns, the only coach the Michigan men's soccer team has known, leads the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the third time in program history today.
Considering what Burns jokingly refers to as one of his "career-defining moments," it's probably best Michigan won't take a mascot with it to Columbia, S.C. for a 2 p.m. game against South Carolina.
Before Michigan made the leap to varsity status in 2000, Burns split his time between coaching the Wolverines’ club team and the Michigan Bucks, a minor-league affiliate of the MLS' Columbus Crew.
During a 1997 Bucks game, Burns wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with an official, made his opinion known and was ejected. He left the bench as instructed, but made the most memorable substitution of his coaching career on the way to the locker room.
That's when Burns noticed a teenager dressed as the Bucks’ mascot, Buckster -- a full-body deer suit, complete with antlers and soccer jersey.
“Hey kid,” he said. “Get out of that suit. I’m going in.”
Buckster, now wearing wing tips instead of tennis shoes, made his way to the Bucks' bench and gave lineup instruction to then-general manager Jim Duggan, who took over coaching duties.
With a win in hand, Burns turned his attention to his new role with the team.
“I went over on the sidelines and was mocking the referee, carded him, and got all the kids into it,” Burns said. “The rest of the game, I was just playing with the kids. It was great.”
Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.