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GGC hires DeCou as first head men's soccer coach

Settling down in one place isn't easy in college athletics.

Steve DeCou, like so many involved in the coaching profession, paid his dues around the country before moving up the ranks. He coached at high schools in Tennessee and Alabama, worked at his alma mater, Tennessee Temple, and took head coaching jobs in Huntingdon, Ind., Palos Heights, Ill., and Jackson, Miss.

The latter stop, at Belhaven College, was a nice place where the 39-year-old said he could have coached for years.

But then another opportunity opened up for him and he accepted it, becoming the first men's soccer coach in Georgia Gwinnett College history. The location was appealing to the Michigan native -- his wife Amy, a Berry College grad, is from Ringgold and his family is in Charleston, S.C. -- but so was the GGC job and its longterm potential.

"It was the opportunity (that drew me to the job)," DeCou said. "It's in a great location with an unbelievable recruiting base. The school itself is growing and it has something special to offer. To be able to be the first head coach here, to put our stamp on it, was too hard to pass up.

"Everything's brand-new. We get to put our name on it. You're not trying to fix or improve on what the previous coach did, or maintain the success of the previous coach. It's an opportunity to build it the way we want to see it done."

DeCou joins head women's coach Domenic Martelli as the leaders of GGC's soccer program. The Grizzlies, under the leadership of athletic director Darin Wilson, also have hired head baseball coach Brad Stromdahl. Both Martelli and Stromdahl coached previously at Georgia State.

GGC hasn't announced the other head coaches for its inaugural year of varsity athletics in 2012-13 --men's and women's tennis and women's fastpitch softball.

The rush is on for the new head coaches to firm up recruiting classes and schedules, which is even more important to soccer coaches like Martelli and DeCou, whose teams begin play in August.

That time crunch isn't tempering the new men's coach's expectations, though. He expects to compete for national championships within five years.

"We feel we can win right away," DeCou said. "With this school, what it offers, the innovation here. It's going to be a place where a lot of people want to go to school, especially when the facilities get built. It will be an easy sell for us."

DeCou has 12 seasons of experience as a college head coach, with his best teams coming recently at Belhaven. All five of his teams there posted winning records and his final two had a combined record of 32-7-3, reaching the NAIA National Tournament twice. Prior to 2010, Belhaven had not qualified for nationals since 1994.

He also served as head coach at both Trinity Christian (Ill.) and Huntingdon (Ind.) for a combined seven seasons. The Michigan native also coached at Tennessee Temple, where he was a four-year starter from 1991-1994.

At his other college jobs, DeCou has recruited in his now-permanent home base of Georgia. But he always struggled to get players to leave the state because of the HOPE Scholarship.

Now that's no longer a problem.

"I'm just extremely excited about the opportunity," DeCou said. "I want to help grow the sport and grow the sport in the community here."