Anson Dorrance

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Anson Dorrance
Dorrance during the final of the 2006 Women's College Cup
Personal information
Full name Albert Anson Dorrance IV[1]
Date of birth (1951-04-09) April 9, 1951 (age 72)[1]
Place of birth Bombay, India[1]
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[2]
Position(s) Midfielder
Team information
Current team
North Carolina Tar Heels (women's head coach)
Youth career
0000–1969 Villa St. Jean
College career
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1969 St. Mary's Rattlers
1971–1973 North Carolina Tar Heels
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1974–197? Chapel Hill Soccer Club
Managerial career
1974–197? Chapel Hill Soccer Club (player-coach)
1976 North Carolina Tar Heels (men's assistant)
1977–1988 North Carolina Tar Heels (men)
1979– North Carolina Tar Heels (women)
1986–1994 United States (women)
Medal record
Women's football
Representing  United States (as coach)
FIFA Women's World Cup
First place 1991 China
Summer Universiade
Silver medal – second place 1993 Buffalo Team
CONCACAF Women's Championship
Winner 1991 Haiti
Winner 1993 United States
Winner 1994 Canada
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Albert Anson Dorrance IV (born April 9, 1951) is an American soccer coach. He is currently the head coach of the women's soccer program at the University of North Carolina. He has one of the most successful coaching records in the history of athletics. Under Dorrance's leadership, the Tar Heels have won 21 of the 41 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships. The Tar Heels' record under Dorrance stood at 809-67-36 (.887 winning percentage) over 33 seasons at the end of the 2017 season. He has led his team to a 101-game unbeaten streak and coached 13 different women to a total of 20 National Player of the Year awards.

The NCAA has recognized Dorrance as the Women's Soccer Coach of the Year seven times (1982, 1986, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006) and as the Men's Soccer Coach of the Year in 1987. On March 10, 2008, Dorrance was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.[3]

Early life[edit]

Dorrance was born in Bombay, India on April 9, 1951, the son of an American oil executive. He spent his youth moving with his family throughout Europe and Africa. Of all the places he lived, three had particular influences on his later life. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia he met his future wife, M'Liss Gary, the daughter of the U.S. Air Force attache to Ethiopia. He attributes his love of soccer to his years living in Kenya. He gained his education from the Villa St. Jean International School boarding school, located in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he played soccer for three years and graduated in 1969.[4]

After graduating from Villa St. Jean, he moved to the United States and attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, where he played soccer for a semester. He transferred after the fall term to the University of North Carolina. There, he was a member of St. Anthony Hall. His love of soccer led him to walk onto the school's soccer team, then coached by Marvin Allen, where he was a three time All-ACC player. As he transferred from another college, he was ineligible to play during his sophomore year, and only joined the team as a junior in 1971. He played as a midfielder, and was team captain in 1973 as a post-senior.[4][5] In 1974, he graduated with a B.A. in English and philosophy. That year he also married his childhood sweetheart, M'Liss Gary, with whom he has three children: Michelle, Natalie, and Donovan.[6] After graduating, Dorrance was the player-coach of Chapel Hill Soccer Club.[7][8]

Under the influence of his father, Dorrance entered North Carolina Central University Law School in 1976, later transferring to the University of North Carolina School of Law. That same year, Coach Allen convinced Dorrance to succeed him as the UNC men's soccer coach. From 1977 until 1988 Dorrance compiled a 175–65–21 (.708) record with the team. His greatest success with the men's team came in 1987 when he led them to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship. They beat North Carolina State University 3-2 winning their first ACC tournament. They also went to the NCAA Final Four in 1987 losing to Clemson University 4–1 in the semi-final game.[9] That same year he also won the NCAA Men's Soccer Coach of the Year.[10]

UNC women's soccer team[edit]

In 1979 UNC expanded Dorrance's duties to include the newly established women's team as well as the men's soccer team. It was this event which moved Dorrance into the limelight. At this time, the NCAA did not have a women's soccer championship. When the NCAA showed no interest in establishing one, Dorrance and University of Colorado coach Chris Lidstone approached the AIAW, who were receptive to the idea.[11] Within two years of the start of the program, Dorrance had guided the Tar Heels to the 1981 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) title. After the AIAW led the way, the NCAA finally recognized women's soccer as an inter-collegiate sport and Dorrance's teams proceeded to dominate the sport. His teams won 12 of the first 13 NCAA championships (1982–1984, 1986–1994). After winning the 2012 NCAA championship, the Tar Heels have claimed a total of 23 national championships and 22 of the 37 NCAA championships.

Dorrance Field at UNC is named after Anson Dorrance.

Dorrance's success comes from several interrelated attributes. First, he has an eye for recruiting outstanding talent.[12] Related to that is his emphasis on competitiveness. He noted early in his time as a women's coach that women seemed to have an inhibition against open competition. He decided to develop an atmosphere at UNC in which women were rewarded for having an aggressive desire to win. Finally, he noted from his work with both the men's and women's teams that women tended to play best in an atmosphere that focused on relationships.

Dorrance was able to bring out his players' aggressiveness and competitiveness while also fostering an almost family sense of the team.[13] Regarding the aggressiveness, Santa Clara University women's soccer coach Jerry Smith noted in a 1998 Sports Illustrated article, "When you watch them, you can see the edge they have. I'll go beyond aggressiveness. It's meanness. Anson has found a way to bring that out of his players." Mia Hamm added in the same article, "I grew up always good at sports, but being a girl, I was never allowed to feel as good about it as guys were. My toughness wasn't celebrated. But then I got to the University of North Carolina, and it was O.K. to want to be the best."[2] Anson Dorrance was honored with his name given to the soccer stadium formerly known as Fetzer Field, as Dorrance Field.[14]

Head coaching record[edit]

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1979–present)
1979 North Carolina 10–2–0
1980 North Carolina 21–5–0 AIAW Semifinals
1981 North Carolina 23–0–0 AIAW Champions
1982 North Carolina 19–2–0 NCAA Champions
1983 North Carolina 19–1–0 NCAA Champions
1984 North Carolina 24–0–1 - NCAA Champions
1985 North Carolina 18–2–1 - NCAA Runner-up
1986 North Carolina 24–0–1 - NCAA Champions
1987 North Carolina 23–0–1 3–0–0 1st NCAA Champions
1988 North Carolina 18–0–3 1–0–1 ACC Runner-up NCAA Champions
1989 North Carolina 24–0–1 4–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1990 North Carolina 20–1–1 4–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1991 North Carolina 24–0–0 4–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1992 North Carolina 25–0–0 4–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1993 North Carolina 23–0–0 4–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1994 North Carolina 25–1–1 5–1–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1995 North Carolina 25–1–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Semifinals
1996 North Carolina 25–1–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1997 North Carolina 27–0–1 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
1998 North Carolina 25–1–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Runner-up
1999 North Carolina 24–2–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2000 North Carolina 21–3–0 4–3–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2001 North Carolina 24–1–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Runner-up
2002 North Carolina 21–2–4 4–1–2 ACC Champions NCAA Semifinals
2003 North Carolina 27–0–0 7–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2004 North Carolina 20–1–2 9–0–0 ACC Runner-up NCAA Third Round
2005 North Carolina 23–1–1 9–1–0 ACC Champions NCAA Quarterfinals
2006 North Carolina 27–1–0 10–0–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2007 North Carolina 19–4–1 9–1–0 ACC Champions NCAA Third Round
2008 North Carolina 25–1–2 9–0–1 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2009 North Carolina 23–3–1 9–3–0 ACC Champions NCAA Champions
2010 North Carolina 19–3–2 9–3–0 ACC Semifinals NCAA Third Round
2011 North Carolina 13–5–2 6–3–1 ACC Quarterfinals NCAA Third Round
2012 North Carolina 15–5–2 6–3–1 ACC Quarterfinals NCAA Champions
2013 North Carolina 20–5–0 10–3-0 ACC Semifinals NCAA Quarterfinals
2014 North Carolina 14–4–2 9–0–1 ACC Semifinals NCAA Third Round
2015 North Carolina 15–5–1 7–3–0 ACC Finalist NCAA Second Round
2016 North Carolina 17–4–3 6–2–2 ACC Finalist NCAA Semifinals
2017 North Carolina 17–3–2 8–0–2 ACC Champions NCAA Third Round
2018 North Carolina 21–4–2 10–0–0 ACC Runner-up NCAA Runner-up
2019 North Carolina 24–1–2 9–0–1 ACC Champions NCAA Runner-up
2020 North Carolina 18–2–0 8–0–0 ACC Runner-up NCAA Semifinals
2021 North Carolina 12–3–3 5–2–3 6th NCAA First Round
2022 North Carolina 20–5–1 8–2–0 ACC Runner-up NCAA Runner-up
North Carolina: 921–85–46 239–30–15
Total: 1093–150–67

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

National team coach[edit]

His success at North Carolina led to the United States Soccer Federation hiring Dorrance as the coach of the United States women's national soccer team in 1986. In taking the job Dorrance delivered a letter containing a stark warning to the players he inherited: "If you don't come in fit, I will cut you!"[15] He successfully juggled his duties to both the national team and UNC. In one extreme case, Dorrance left Assistant Coach Bill Palladino to lead UNC to a championship victory in the 1991 NCAA tournament while he led the US Women to a World Cup championship. In that tournament, the United States won the first Women's World Cup, held in China. When Dorrance ended his tenure in 1994 with the national team, he had accumulated a record of 65–22–5 (.707) record. He has coached some of the finest players in women's soccer history including Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.


In May 2005 Dorrance was elected as a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. In February 2016 he received the Werner Fricker Builder Award, a special award named after Werner Fricker.[14]


North Carolina Tar Heels women

  • 21x NCAA Division I Tournament Champion (1982, 1983, 1984, 1986–1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012)
  • 22x ACC Tournament Champion (1989–2003, 2005–2009, 2017, 2019)
  • 23x ACC Regular Season Champion (1987, 1989–1993, 1995–1999, 2001–2008, 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020)

United States women


  • 7x National Coach of the Year (1982, 1986, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006)
  • 12x ACC Coach of the Year (1982, 1986, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2018, 2019).
  • North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame (2002)
  • North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (2005)
  • National Soccer Hall of Fame (2008)
  • United Soccer Coaches' Hall of Fame (2018)

Court cases[edit]

In 1998 a former player, Melissa Jennings, sued Dorrance for sexual harassment. He had just cut her from the team. Initially, it appeared the suit was retaliation against Dorrance. However, Debbie Keller Hill, a former team captain, joined the suit. In October 2004 U.S. District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. threw out the six-year lawsuit, stating the "behavior at issue does not constitute severe, pervasive and objectively offensive sexual harassment."[16] In April 2006 a three judge federal appeals panel voted to not reverse the judgement (2–1).[17] Jennings appealed to the full court with oral arguments taking place in October 2006.[18] Hill had earlier settled with the university for $70,000.[19]

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after a rehearing by the full court, vacated summary judgment for defendants in Jennings' lawsuit. The April 9, 2007, decision allowed Jennings to proceed on her Title IX claim and on sexual harassment civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dorrance and a university official.

The 4th Circuit Court found in favor of Dorrance, the majority opinion stating "When the evidence in this case is viewed most favorably to Jennings, the evidence shows that Dorrance used vulgar language and participated in sexual banter at practice with some women that he coached and that he once directed a vulgar question at Jennings. Jennings immediately responded to Dorrance’s vulgar question with her own profane reply and that ended the inquiry. Dorrance never touched, never threatened, never ogled, and never propositioned Jennings. Because no reasonable jury could find that Dorrance sexually harassed Jennings or find that Jennings’ other claims have merit, we affirm the judgment of the district court." The dissenting opinion, authored by Judge M. Blane Michael, said that Dorrance's conduct "went far beyond simple teasing and qualified as sexual harassment."[17]

On October 1, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by the state Attorney General's Office for the court to hear a nine-year-old sexual harassment suit against UNC-Chapel Hill and its women's soccer coach, Anson Dorrance.

The refusal by the Supreme Court to hear the case meant that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from 2007 would stand and the case could proceed to trial. On January 14, 2008, the suit was settled out of court and Melissa Jennings received $385,000, mostly used for legal fees. The university also reviewed its sexual harassment policies and procedures, and brought in an outside law professor to help. Dorrance was quoted saying. "I think for everyone concerned, it's a good thing. I really feel like both parties felt it had gone long enough." The coach issued a written apology to the player, her family, and team members saying that his comments were inappropriate.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lohse, Dave (September 19, 2021). "Serendipity has marked Anson Dorrance's illustrious career". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Price, S.L. (December 7, 1998). "Anson Dorrance, the legendary North Carolina women's soccer coach, is sure he understands what makes a female athlete tick, and he has 15 national titles to prove it. So why are two former Tar Heels suing him for sexual harassment?". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  3. ^ "Perez and Dorrance elected to Hall of Fame". Fox Sports. March 10, 2008. Archived from the original on March 14, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Bakewell, Carolyn (September 7, 1973). "Anson's final year". The Daily Tar Heel. Vol. 82, no. 8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. p. 7. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  5. ^ Ward, Kip (January 31, 1974). "Recruiting up for soccer squad". The Daily Tar Heel. Vol. 82, no. 91. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. p. 5. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  6. ^ "Anson Dorrance". North Carolina Tar Heels. Archived from the original on April 19, 2022. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  7. ^ "Allen resigns as soccer coach". The Daily Tar Heel. Vol. 83, no. 9. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. July 29, 1976. p. 10. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  8. ^ Upchurch, Gene (August 30, 1976). "Dorrance to take reins as UNC soccer coach". The Daily Tar Heel. Vol. 84, no. 3. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. p. 13. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  9. ^ "Tar Heels Soccer Media Guide" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Explaining variation in the Sex Composition of Coaches for Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Teams" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Anson Dorrance". Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2008.
  13. ^ "Numbers tell only half the story of UNC soccer coach's legacy". July 3, 2007.
  14. ^ a b U.S. Soccer Names Anson Dorrance 2016 Werner Fricker Builder Award Winner
  15. ^ Lisi 2010, p. 6
  16. ^ ESPN – Six-year-old suit dismissed days before trial – College Sports
  17. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 19, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ | Suit against coach revived Archived July 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Harassment Case Involving Coach Settled". The New York Times. March 25, 2004. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  20. ^ Sexual harassment suit settled, North Carolina's Dorrance can move on – World Soccer – Yahoo! Sports Archived January 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine


External links[edit]