NIU coach ‘worshipped’ at Hall of Fame induction

By Hyun Moon

NIU soccer coach Willy Roy has had an effect on a lot of lives.

While Roy was being inducted to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame last Friday, a man climbed up to the podium and worshipped the fifth-year NIU soccer coach.

“You’re the greatest, Willy,” the man said. “I love you.”

This went on for 10 minutes before Roy was finally able to make his acceptance speech.

“Why stop a good thing?” Roy asked the audience at the McCormick Place in Chicago.

Roy joined a very distinctive group that evening as the induction class of 1991 included Bear greats Rick Casares, the second all-time leading Bear rusher; J.C. Caroline, defensive back standout; and Gary Fencik, the bruising safety. The baseball greats inducted are: ex-Cub Billy Herman; Al Lopez, White Sox manager for the 1957 World Series Champions; and Dick Allen, American League MVP for the Sox in 1975. Herman and Lopez have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown for over a decade, and Casares is enshrined at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.

“This is really a tribute to my family who has been supporting me for all these years,” Roy said.

There are two criteria for consideration for the Chicago Hall of Fame, said John Grey, executive chairman of the selection committee. Grey said out of 460 nominations made by the public, only the seven survived the cut by the 12-member selection committee.

“They have to have been a outstanding athlete or coach in the Chicagoland (area),” he said. “But they also have to be active in the community.”

Roy certainly fits all the criteria. The 48-year-old native of Tereuburg, Germany, emigrated to the U.S. when he was just 13-years-old. Roy became an outstanding soccer player and eventually played with the U.S. National team from 1965-1974, playing in World Cup Competition in 1966, 1970 and 1974.

Roy was named North American Soccer League Rookie of the Year in 1967 with the Chicago Spurs. Roy’s pro career was cut short by a knee injury, but he excelled in another profession—coaching.

Roy guided the Chicago Sting to NASL championships in 1981 and 1984. His career mark at the helm of the Sting is 250-196.

“When I was playing, the thought of being inducted to any Hall of Fame scared me,” Roy said. “If you were inducted, it meant you had one foot in the grave. It was nice to be honored at this stage of my life.”

Roy’s team gave him an even bigger present the next day when it wiped out Wisconsin-Milwaukee 5-1. “It’s the best present they could have given me,” Roy said.

The Huskies (10-4-3) can give Roy two more presents this season. DePaul comes into Huskie Soccer Field today at 3 p.m. for NIU’s last home match, and the Huskies travel to Wright State on Thursday for a 2 p.m. match for their season finale.

Roy said the Huskies are playing their best soccer at this point of the season. “We were searching for the combination of players,” Roy said. “I can still switch some positions around, but this is a solid corp of players.”