Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

Huntington – Marshall men’s soccer head coach Chris Grassie has signed a new five-year deal that keeps him signed through the 2025 season, the school announced Friday following the Thundering Herd’s 2020 NCAA Title. 

Grassie, who just finished his fourth season at the helm of the program, has built the Herd into not just a Conference USA contender, but a national power. He has led Marshall to back-to-back C-USA Titles.  

Under the new contract, Grassie will receive an annual salary of  $375,750. 

“Right now we have the best program in the country,” coach Grassie said in a University-issued press release. “I want to make sure we continue to grow and evolve so we can win more championships.” 

"I'm so excited and pleased that Chris Grassie will continue to lead our men's soccer program well into the future," said Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick. "He's lived up to every expectation since we've hired him and I know that the entire Thundering Herd fanbase is thrilled to see this news today." 

Grassie came to Marshall in January of 2017. Before his arrival in Huntington, Grassie had led the University of Charleston to back-to-back appearances in the Division II National Championship match. The Newcastle upon-Tyne, United Kingdom native began his work of putting Marshall into the national conversation. 

Grassie’s first season at Marshall resulted in an 8-10-1 record as the team earned the sixth seed in the conference tournament, after being picked to finish eighth out of eight teams. Still, the Herd showed the growth and the promise that was yet to come as the squad upset 3rd-seeded Kentucky 1-0 in the first round. Marshall then fell in the semifinal 1-0 to No. 2 seed Old Dominion, who went on to win the championship. In 2018, the Herd finished as the fifth seed in conference and again pulled off an upset of No. 4 seed FIU, 2-1, in the first round before falling to No. 1 seed Kentucky who also went on to win the title.    

In 2019, everything started to come together as Marshall won a program-record 16 matches, and became ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2001. The Herd also earned the No. 1 seed in the C-USA Tournament, defeating Kentucky in the semifinal, 1-0. Then Marshall won the Conference USA title match with a 1-0 victory over No. 2 seed Charlotte with a golden goal from Pedro Dolabella, one of Grassie’s first recruits, in the second overtime. The Herd earned its first C-USA Championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall was picked as the No. 11 seed in the postseason and hosted a second round match against WVU.    

In front of a Hoops Family Field-record crowd of 2,126 fans, the Herd defeated the Mountaineers 2-1. It was the largest crowd of any first or second round match in the NCAA Tournament that season. Marshall moved on to the Sweet 16 where it fell 4-1 at No. 6 Washington.   

Throughout the season, the Herd earned numerous accolades including Grassie being named Conference USA Coach of the Year.    

Marshall was set to begin the defense of its C-USA title in the fall of 2020 before the year was postponed until the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The magical ride of the 2020-21 season finally got started with actual competition on Feb. 13 against Ohio Valley with a 1-1 draw. The Herd then began to find its rhythm, and as the season progressed, the team kept playing better and better.    

Throughout the year, Marshall possessed a stingy defense that, by season’s end, led the nation in shutouts with 11. Grassie’s ball-control style helped reduce the amount of chances for the opponents and increased the Herd’s opportunities to break down the opposition. Without a C-USA Tournament, every single regular season conference match was crucial and Marshall went into the final with a 5-0-1 record, while Charlotte came in with a 5-0-0 mark. The Herd defeated the 12th-ranked 49ers 2-0, to earn its second-straight C-USA Championship and another automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Grassie was again named the league’s Coach of the Year.   

With a smaller field due to the pandemic, Marshall entered the NCAA tournament ranked No. 10 but was considered an unseeded team as just the top eight were given the designations. However, Grassie’s confidence in his squad never wavered as he believed from the start that this team had what it took to win the whole thing. And he was right.   

The journey to the title for the Herd began against No. 23 Fordham in the second round. Marshall defeated the Rams 2-1 in overtime as Milo Yosef provided both goals for the Herd. Marshall then met the top-overall seed, No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the Sweet 16. The match played to a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes and moved to a penalty kick shootout. The Herd came out victorious as Marshall never quit, even after missing its first attempt. Oliver Semmle, who was named C-USA Goalkeeper of the Year, made a crucial save that kept the shootout tied at 6-6 and opened the door for the Herd. All-American Vitor Dias put an end to the day with a left-footed blast that moved Marshall on to the Elite 8 for the first time in team history.   

After defeating the No. 1 seed, the Herd then took on the defending national champions in No. 8 Georgetown, and yet Grassie knew that he still had the better team on the pitch. Jamil Roberts, another member of Grassie’s first recruiting class, scored his first NCAA postseason game-winner in the 70th minute as Marshall eliminated another seeded team. Then came the College Cup, where the Herd met No. 16 North Carolina in the Final Four, a team that had been to that stage numerous times. Grassie’s team took care of the Tar Heels 1-0 as Roberts buried another game-winner in the 60th minute as Marshall moved on to the final for the first time in program history.  

The Herd was matched up against No. 3 Indiana, a program with eight previous national championships. Grassie’s squad was again not intimidated by its opponent and thoroughly outplayed the Hoosiers. Marshall won the time of possession battle 62 percent to 38 percent, outshot Indiana 17-8, and 8-1 on goal. However, the match moved into overtime, and with less than three minutes left in the first extra frame, Dias had a shot attempt that was saved by the keeper, but was loose on the far side. After two deflections off the woodwork, Roberts tapped in his third consecutive game-winner and Grassie’s crew won the national championship.