Jamie Clark had just taken over the UW men’s soccer program in 2011 when he was approached by Peter Fewing, who had left his coaching job at Seattle U years earlier.
“He said, ‘I wanted to come to UW and take over that program,’ but he shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said, ‘All I’ll ever do is support you,’” Clark recalled. “I didn’t know this guy, but I wanted to believe it. And over the course of eight to nine years, he’s proved it.”
That promise was kept even after Fewing returned in 2012 for a second stint at Seattle U, and even though the programs have the best UW-Seattle U rivalry among all sports. In 2013, UW knocked Seattle U out of the NCAA tournament and in 2017, Seattle U knocked out UW. The teams have split their last six matches.
A rivalry was born — one with mutual admiration and respect.
“Credit Pete for going back there and reinventing the program and making it a rivalry, because there has to be wins in both directions to make it a rivalry,” Clark said. “We compete like dogs, but in the moment afterward, we are asking how can we support each other’s programs and how can we grow our rivalry. You should leave nothing in the tank, but if you compete in the right manner, you can move past it, say congratulations and shake the guy’s hand.”
The programs are coexisting and thriving, in large part because of their coaches, whose backgrounds couldn’t be more different, and because of a local talent pool that is big enough for both to succeed.
Clark, born in Scotland and the son of a legendary Scottish goalkeeper, has led his Huskies (13-1-0) to the No. 1 spot in the national rankings after being unranked in the preseason.
Fewing, a local product who led Highline High School to a state title before playing at UW, has Seattle U atop the Western Athletic Conference (9-3-3, 6-0-1 WAC). His program has been the school’s most successful since returning to Division I 10 years ago.
So it’s no wonder Fewing says of himself and Clark: “We’re both in the right spots.”
Born into the game
Clark, 42, had a soccer ball at his foot from the time he started walking.
And no wonder. His father, Bobby Clark, played for Aberdeen from 1965 to 1980, and represented the Scottish national team 17 times before going into coaching.
“It was just in our blood, basically,” Clark said. “My brother played, my sister played and around every dinner table, the sport was what we talked about and what connects our family for the most part. That’s how we operate.”
When Jamie was in the fourth grade, the family moved to the U.S. as Bobby became coach at Dartmouth.
After graduating from high school, Jamie moved to New Zealand after his dad got the job coaching its men’s national team. Clark worked 12 hours a day for an electrician, and that experience motivated him when he returned to the U.S. the next year to play soccer at North Carolina.
“I was an OK student before that, but after running wires 12 hours a day, I went to North Carolina and kicked ass,” Clark said.
He did well enough to transfer to Stanford after his father took the head-coaching job there and was a two-time All-American for the Cardinal.
“All three of my children played and were all good, but Jamie had a special feeling,” said Bobby Clark, who just spent a month in Seattle. “When he played for me at Stanford, I felt like he was a coach on the field. He had a great sense of the game and how the game should be played.”
Clark, a defender, was drafted in the second round in the 1999 draft by the MLS San Jose Earthquakes and played two seasons. Sports hernia injuries sidetracked his career and while rehabbing he was talked into assisting at the University of New Mexico for a season.
“That one season led to four,” Clark said. “I had the bug.”
After that, Clark assisted his father at Notre Dame for two seasons before getting his first head-coaching job with Harvard in 2008.
Clark came to Washington in 2011, quickly turning around a program that had fallen upon hard times. He took UW to the NCAA tournament in his second season and the Huskies have made the tournament the past three years.
“I admire that he came to Washington and he stayed,” Fewing said. “He’s had other opportunities.”
In the “First Family”
Fewing, 57, was born and raised in Burien by parents from England who were season-ticket holders from year one of the original Sounders of the NASL. There was never a doubt Peter would play.
“It was definitely my identity from when I was super young,” Fewing said.
Fewing, a midfielder, led Highline High School to a state title in 1981, then played a year for Green River Community College before playing two seasons at Washington.
He left UW a year early to play for FC Seattle, where one of his teammates was a former youth soccer rival, Brian Schmetzer, now coach of the Sounders.
After three seasons with FC Seattle, Fewing learned that the Seattle U men’s coaching job was open and at age 23 approached the athletic director.
“I told her I wanted to build a national-championship program and she looked at me like I am nuts,” Fewing said, noting the team was coming off eight straight losing seasons.
But Fewing, who for the next three years played for FC Seattle and coached at Seattle U, delivered. He led the school to the 1997 NAIA national title and the 2004 NCAA Division II national title.
Despite the success, Fewing resigned after the 2005 season, his 18th with the team, when told he would have to get rid of his assistant coaches.
During the time away, he became a Sounders TV and radio analyst and still does work on the radio.
Fewing returned to Seattle U in 2012 after the school moved to Division I.
“It was really hard and brutal,” Fewing said. “But (returning) is a great story of reconciliation.”
Since returning, Fewing has led the Redhawks into the NCAA tournament three times, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 and beating UW in the NCAA tournament in 2017.
“Peter’s obviously got huge roots in Seattle soccer,” Clark said. “I kid with him that he’s in the First Family of Seattle soccer. But he is. He’s in that hierarchy of guys in this game.”
Both programs rely heavily on local talent, with 17 of the 33 Huskies having played at Washington high schools and 13 of Seattle U’s 29 players coming from the state. They often recruit the same players.
“If a recruit says, ‘I am looking at Washington,’ we tell them truth: It’s a great place and those guys do a great job,” Fewing said.
Fewing said he donates $500 each year to UW men’s soccer and he sent Clark a letter telling him why.
“My wife and I are giving you this because 1), I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for playing at the University of Washington; 2), I have a ton of respect for you and your staff and 3), I ask people to donate to our program, so it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do that,” he said.
Illustrative of the coaches’ relationship was Clark giving Fewing a heads up on Alex Roldan, whose brother Cristian played for UW and both are with the Sounders.
“Jamie said to me, ‘We can’t give Alex enough (scholarship) money to come here, so you should look at him,’” Fewing said.
Alex Roldan went to Seattle U and in the 2017 NCAA tournament game against UW, Fewing said Roldan was undercut by a Husky.
“Jamie pulled (the Husky) off, and I would have to do the same thing if it was our guy,” Fewing said. “We extend the olive branch back and forth and we try to help each other. I think why I value it so much is that I don’t see it like this (elsewhere).”
Clark and his wife, Kate, have two children: Noelle, 8, a gymnast, and Alex, 4, who attends UW practices and is a budding soccer player.
Clark said he has everything he needs to be successful, and perhaps the only disappointment is that after reaching the Elite Eight in 2013, the Huskies have struggled in recent years in the NCAA tournament.
Last season, they didn’t allow a goal in their final five games, but lost their tournament opener on penalty kicks after a scoreless tie against Lipscomb. The year before was the tournament-opening loss to Seattle U.
Clark said making a big NCAA tournament run is a big deal, but it’s not the first item on his wish list.
“NCAA tournaments are one-off games and crazy stuff can happen, whereas in a 10-game Pac-12 schedule, the best team should win out,” Clark said. “Last year, the two national finalists were Maryland and Akron and we beat them both 2-0. So we thought we were there last year. So, it’s the Pac-12 title, first and foremost, then we take it from there.”
Fewing, who has three adult children — Ian, Nathan and Gabrielle — with wife Patty, likes the direction his team is headed. Other than a 2-0 loss to UW, Seattle U has been in every game it has played, including a 0-0 tie at then-No. 2 Indiana.
For Clark and Fewing, coaching soccer is just part of the job. They are also life coaches. Clark is proud of what Cristian Roldan and Handwalla Bwana are doing for the Sounders but is just as proud of former players who have succeeded in other professions.
“He’s going to recruit you because you’re a good player, but when you get there the most important thing is what you are going to do with your life and what do you need to study,” said Bwana, who said the best decision he has made was going to UW. “He does everything he can for you to succeed.”
Alex Roldan said he learned a lot from Fewing, both on and off the field.
“I think he did a very good job in being a players’ coach in motivating us and encouraging us,” Alex Roldan said. “He stepped it up in terms of where the program is and I think he will go very far in the years to come.”
Fewing said the relationships with his players are what he is most proud of. That Clark thinks that way too should not be surprising.
“Jamie was raised by Scottish parents and I was raised by English parents and I think the values are the same: Do the right thing,” Fewing said.
And while the casual sports fan might not appreciate the programs the two have built, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer does.
“Here, locally, they get a lot of credit,” he said. “We always talk about how their teams are doing. We keep tabs on them, and their rivalry game is a must-see game.”