Eastern Washington University made Chad Bodnar an offer he couldn’t refuse.
As a result, one of the most influential and hardest-working soccer coaches the Tri-Cities has ever seen will step into his dream job as head coach of an NCAA Division I program.
Eastern Washington hired Bodnar to lead its women’s soccer team, which hasn’t had a winning record since 2007.
“His future is going to be extremely bright with that program,” Hanford boys coach Mike Pardini said. “For him to get an opportunity like that is massive. At some point, somebody was going to take a chance on him. He’s going to reward them for that.”
Pardini should know. A former teammate of Bodnar’s at Pasco High School, Pardini watched his close friend turn Walla Walla Community College into a junior college juggernaut since he took over the Warriors women’s program in 2005.
Since then, he led the Walla Walla women to a 187-11-10 record (a winning percentage of .949) in NWAACC play and a mark of 139-3-9 (.978) against the NWAACC East. Add to that eight East division titles and three NWAACC championships.
In 2007, Bodnar was named the men’s coach at Walla Walla and went 98-23-18 (.809) with five East titles and one NWAACC men’s championship.
He did all this while helping revive the Three Rivers Soccer Club after it’s competitiveness and attractiveness with local players started to lag. As the club’s coaching director, he spearheaded the club’s new vision that led to joint partnerships with clubs in Boise and Yakima, and later start up a new Evergreen Premier League franchise in Tri-Cities.
“He changed the culture, in my opinion,” Pardini said. “When I (played) here, there was so much talent that wasn’t being groomed. He approached it the right way. There have been a lot of kids from this area who went to Walla Walla and beyond who might not have had that opportunity if Bodnar hadn’t been there.”
But when Bodnar’s dream opportunity knocked, it was difficult not to answer the call.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a Division I coach. The Athletic Director (at EWU) is building up all the athletic programs and convinced me it was a good spot,” Bodnar said. “I wanted to build a program there. I enjoy doing that.”
One of Bodnar’s biggest advantages will be already having a northwest region recruiting network in place, which — along with his coaching reputation — should give him a jump on recruiting.
“I know how to build a program,” Bodnar said of the Eagles’ women’s program, which is 24-56-12 (.300) since 2008. “I want to turn it around, and I can hit the ground running, being connected with people and clubs around the northwest.”
Bodnar admitted it won’t be easy for him and his family to adjust to a new job and new environment after living his entire life in Pasco. But he’s looking forward to the chance to create something special in Cheney.
“Eastern couldn’t be a better fit. It’s something close to my dad (former Pasco wrestling coach Bob Bodnar) and (wife) Lindsay’s parents, which is a huge factor,” he said.
And Bodnar won’t be leaving the Three Rivers Soccer Club high and dry, either. He intends on fulfiling the full term of his contract through May of 2014.
“I want to finish that out, and then (the club administrators) can talk about what to do from there,” Bodnar said. “I put a lot of work in that club. A lot of kids want to see it succeed, and I don’t want to leave it in a bad spot.”
Pardini planned to share coaching responsibilities with Bodnar for the EPL franchise, which begins its first season next May, but those plans changed when Bodnar took the job at Eastern.
“We always talked about (coaching) together. If he’s out of the equation, I’m out of it, too,” said Pardini, a Project Controls Engineer at Bechtel National. “We’re going to talk to some other people outside the area. We’re not going to turn our backs.”