Dennis Grace, who guided the Notre Dame men's soccer team to its first-ever NCAA Championship berth in 1988 and served as the first varsity head coach of the Irish women's soccer program from 1988-89, died Friday at his home in Elkhart, Ind., at the age of 60.

Former Irish Soccer Coach Dennis Grace Dies At Age 60

July 8, 2013

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s soccer coach Dennis Grace, who led the Irish to their first NCAA Championship appearance in men’s soccer, died Friday at his home in Elkhart, Ind., after a long battle with cancer. He was 60.

Grace served as Notre Dame’s second varsity men’s soccer coach, heading up the Irish program from 1984-89. He also was the first varsity women’s soccer coach in the 1988 and ’89 seasons.

His first Irish men’s team in 1984 finished 12-6-2 and his 1986 Notre Dame squad ended up 13-7-2. In 1987 Grace’s Irish defeated perennial power Indiana (4-3 in overtime) for the first time, started the season 14-0-1 (on the way to 17-3-1 overall) and achieved their first national ranking — in the first season of play in 5,000-seat Moose Krause Stadium.

In 1988 Grace’s squad finished 17-4-2 and made its first NCAA Championship appearance, falling 2-0 at 11th-rated SMU. Notre Dame started 9-0-2, won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title (with tournament wins over fourth-rated Evansville and third-ranked St. Louis) and produced the program’s first All-American in third-team selection Randy Morris (by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America).

The Irish that year finished 15th in the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America rankings — and Grace was named MCC and Great Lakes Region coach of the year.

Grace also coached the Irish women’s soccer program in its first two varsity seasons in 1988 and 1989. Notre Dame finished 13-6-1 and 12-10 in those two years–winning nine of 10 games over one stretch in ’88 and putting together a 10-game midseason win streak in ’89.

His combined career mark at Notre Dame lists at 101-54-15 (.638) — 76-38-14 (.648) in six years with the men and 25-16-1 (.607) in two seasons with the women. Grace originally came to Notre Dame in July 1984 as an assistant men’s soccer coach, then assumed the head coaching role just prior to the season.

Before coming to Notre Dame, Grace spent one season as head men’s soccer coach at Bloomsburg State (4-11-1 in 1983), preceded by a year at Indiana State-Evansville (10-7-2 in 1980) — now the University of Southern Indiana — and two seasons at Tri-State (8-2-1 in 1978 and 11-5 in 1979).

He was named Mid Central Conference coach of the year in ’79 when he led Tri-State to a league title. Grace spent the ’81 and ’82 seasons as an assistant coach at Clemson (the Tigers finished a combined 36-4-1 in those years).

Grace’s overall record as a collegiate head coach was 134-79-19 (.646).

A collegiate soccer player at Indiana, Grace earned two letters as a striker for the Hosiers in 1974 and ’75. He previously attended The Behrend College (Penn State Erie) in his native Erie, Pa., for two years. Grace also coached the Bloomington (Ind.) Cosmos club team for three seasons. He worked as an assistant at Indiana for two seasons before taking the Tri-State position.

Born May 22, 1953, Grace is survived by two sons, Christopher Grace of Indianapolis, Ind., and Michael Grace of New Orleans, La.

Visitation is 5-8 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Stemm-Lawson-Peterson Funeral Home in Elkhart. A funeral Mass will be at 9:30 a.m. EDT Thursday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus. Interment will be at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Dennis Grace Memorial Fund, c/o Indiana Soccer Foundation, 5440 Herbert Lord Road, Indianapolis, IN 46216. The fund will support a soccer coaching clinic that will take place annually in Bloomington in Grace’s name. The fund also will annually honor a young coach who completes an Indiana Soccer coaching course through presentation of the Dennis Grace Award “for their desire to improve the young lives of youth through the sport of soccer.”

— ND —