Neil Jones, who spent three seasons as the associate head coach at Northwestern University, enters his seventh season as the head coach of the Loyola University Chicago men's soccer program in 2019. Jones was named to his current position on December 20, 2012. In addition to helping the Wildcats to back-to-back Big Ten Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances during his stay in Evanston, Ill., the Auckland, New Zealand native helped UC Santa Barbara to the 2006 national championship as an assistant coach for the Gauchos.
Under Jones' tutelage, the 2018 Ramblers won 10 matches to mark the third time in the last four years Jones' squad cracked double-digits in the win column. The Ramblers finished as the No. 2 seed in the MVC Tournament to mark the second highest regular season finish in Jones' tenure. Due to the success on the field, many of his players were recognized as All-MVC selections, such as Grant Stoneman and Josh Lagudah taking home Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year respectively. His group of student-athletes continued the track record of exceptional work in the classroom, highlighted by the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, as well as Marius Kullmann taking home numerous academic honors.
Loyola battled its way to a 7-8-3 record in 2017, Jones' fifth year in Rogers Park. The Maroon & Gold recorded impressive road wins over Xavier and Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion Missouri State. Five Ramblers earned All-Missouri Valley Conference accolades, a quintet that was highlighted by the First Team trio of Elliot Collier, Kyle Thomson and Grant Stoneman. Collier went on to become the first Rambler in program history to be selected in the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft after being taken in the third round by the Chicago Fire. Jones' group also continued to excel off the field, collecting the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award for a seventh-straight season.
Jones led the Maroon & Gold on a historic run during his fourth season at the head of the Loyola bench. The Ramblers closed the year with a final record of 14-4-1, setting a single-season school record for wins, en route to winning their first NCAA Tournament game in program history and securing the University's first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title in any sport. Loyola completed its third consecutive unbeaten season at home, going a perfect 9-0-0 in games played at Loyola Soccer Park. Jones helped guide 10 student-athletes to All-Missouri Valley Conference honors, with five going on to receive All-West Region accolades from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Highlighting that group was Stoneman, who went on to become the second student-athlete in program history to be selected as an NSCAA All-American. Jones' team also continued its strong work in the classroom, earning the NSCAA's Team Academic Award for a sixth consecutive season, with three Ramblers also landing on the Valley's Scholar-Athlete Team for men's soccer. On the individual front, goalkeeper Andrew Chekadanov became the second Rambler in as many seasons to be selected as a Scholar All-American by the NSCAA, while midfielder/defender Kirill Likhovid earned Academic All-District accolades from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
In Jones' third year in charge in 2015, Loyola finished the season with an impressive 10-4-5 mark, recording the program's first 10-win campaign since 2008. For a second consecutive season, Jones' team recorded an undefeated mark at home, going 5-0-2 in contests played within the friendly confines of Loyola Soccer Park. The duo of First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selections Eric Schoendorf and Tim Dobrowolski helped Loyola post a sparkling 0.39 goals against average that led the nation. Schoendorf became the first player in league history to take home both Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Valley, while Dobrowolski was named the league's Goalkeeper of the Year for a second-straight season. Both went on to be tabbed as All-West Region honorees by the NSCAA, where they were joined by Daniel Hare and Kyle Thomson. Loyola also continued its strong work in the classroom. Schoendorf became the first student-athlete in program history to be named an Academic All-American by the NSCAA and joined Hare on the Valley's Scholar-Athlete Team for men's soccer for a second consecutive season. The Maroon & Gold also went on to pick up their fifth-straight NSCAA Team Academic Award.
Jones' second season in Rogers Park proved to be highly successful as he led the Maroon & Gold to its first winning record since the 2008 season. Jones and his coaching staff were recognized as the Missouri Valley Conference's Coaching Staff of the Year following a breakout 8-6-5 campaign, while Tim Dobrowolski and Eric Schoendorf were tabbed as First Team All-Valley selections and NSCAA/Continental Tire All-West Region honorees. The season was highlighted by thrilling overtime victories against conference rival Bradley and No. 20 Northwestern, the Ramblers' first win over their neighbors from Evanston, Ill. in over a decade, as well as the program's first-ever victory in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, a 3-1 triumph over Drake. The team also received recognition for its strong work in the classroom. Hare and Schoendorf both earned spots on the Valley's Scholar-Athlete Team for Men's Soccer, while the team was recognized with the NSCAA's Team Academic Award for the fourth consecutive year.
Jones helped guide the Ramblers to a fifth-place finish and a berth in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament during his first season as the bench boss in Rogers Park. The team finished with a final mark of 6-11-2 but were able to collect victories in its final two conference contests to finish the season on an upswing. The 2013 campaign also saw Brian Bement and Ryan Howe receive All-Missouri Valley Conference accolades. Bement became the focal point of Jones' attack, netting a team-high eight goals, while Howe was a fixture in the Rambler lineup, starting in 16 of the 17 games that he saw action in.
Jones spent three years as head coach Tim Lenahan's right-hand man at Northwestern and helped the Wildcats to a pair of NCAA appearances, including a run to the Sweet Sixteen this fall. During his three seasons on Lenahan's staff at Northwestern, the Wildcats compiled a 32-19-11 (.605) record, posted an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 1000, and earned a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Academic award for having a team grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
"I am very excited to be a part of the athletics department and University with all of the resources and energy being invested," Jones commented. "I look forward to competing for Missouri Valley Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances on a consistent basis, as well as working with the student-athletes on a daily basis to not only make them better soccer players, but also aid in their development as men."
Prior to his arrival in the Midwest, Jones spent four years as an assistant men's soccer coach at his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, where he helped the Gauchos win 68 percent (57-23-12) of their matches and advance to four NCAA Tournaments.
As a student-athlete at UCSB, Jones was a four-year starter and two-time team captain for a program that finished as the 2004 NCAA Runner-Up after falling to Indiana University on penalty kicks. A two-time All-Big West Conference selection, the center back/striker, who racked up 28 goals and 16 assists in his career, was a Academic All-American and was tabbed 2003 Big West Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"This is a great hire for Loyola University and I am sure that their players and administration there will soon learn what our players know - that coach Jones is passionate about developing a successful program on the field, successful student-athletes in the classroom, and successful people in life," Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan said. "I can't thank Neil enough for his contributions to Northwestern soccer. Not only have we experienced unprecedented success with two Big Ten championships and a Big Ten Tournament title during his three years here, but his impact in developing our fan base and the marketing of the program to the Chicagoland community has been phenomenal. It's a big loss for us at Northwestern, but I'm very happy for Neil."
A 2004 graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Jones also owns a master's degree from UCSB. He holds an "A" license from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).