STORRS, Conn. - Joseph J. Morrone, nationally-known Hall of Fame soccer coach, who led UConn to the NCAA Men's Soccer National Championship in 1981, passed away on Wednesday night, September 16th, just shy of 80 years old.
Morrone was an athletic and academic leader within the University of Connecticut community for 45 years, starting his UConn tenure in July of 1969 when he was named head coach of UConn men's soccer. Morrone remained in that role for 28 years (1969-1996) and established a nationally-elite collegiate program.
After retiring as head coach of UConn men's soccer following the 1996 season, Morrone launched a distinguished second career at Connecticut---as a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology where he served as Coordinator of the "Coaching and Administration" concentration, the Lifetime Sports Program and serving as the Chairperson for Admissions to the Kinesiology Department. He formally retired from his academic post within Kinesiology in the summer of 2014.
Morrone's impact on the sport of soccer---at UConn and around the world---has been vividly documented for more than six decades. Morrone was inducted into the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame in 2002 and he was a member of the inaugural class of inductees in the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 1999. Other prestigious awards bestowed on Morrone included: the Bill Jeffrey Award from the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America in 1991; recognition from Soccer America as one of the "20 most influential persons in soccer" in 1991; lifetime membership in the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association, which Morrone founded in 1972; and a Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance "Gold Key" in 1988.
In a crowning achievement to his 39-year highly successful collegiate coaching career, Morrone was named recipient of the 1995-96 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Honor Award, which is presented annually to the individual whose contribution to the sport of soccer have distinguished that recipient to rank among the top names in American soccer circles and is the highest honor bestowed by the NSCAA.
Morrone retired from the coaching ranks in 1996 as one of only four collegiate head coaches to record at least 400-career victories as his overall 39-year record stands at 422-199-64.
At UConn, Morrone compiled a 28-year overall record of 358-178-53. He led his Huskies to the NCAA Men's Soccer national semifinals in three consecutive seasons---winning the 1981 NCAA National Championship and earning a berth in the NCAA National Semifinals in both 1982 and 1983.
The 1981 UConn Men's Soccer team reached the pinnacle in collegiate soccer, defeating Alabama A&M 2-1 in overtime to win the National Championship and finish the year ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Under Morrone's guidance, UConn earned 16 NCAA Tournament berths and during Morrone's last 19 years at UConn, his teams sported 16 winning seasons and averaged 13.8 wins per season. The Huskies were nationally ranked 16th or better 14 times between 1975 and 1996.
Morrone led the Huskies to three Big East Conference Tournament Championships, winning titles in 1983, 1984 and 1989. His teams claimed the Sampson Trophy nine times, emblematic of the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League's top-ranked squad. Honored four times as the New England Coach of the Year (1974, 1976, 1980, 1981) he was also selected as the Big East Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Morrone began his 39-year collegiate coaching career at Middlebury (Vt.) College in 1958. His 11-year (1958-68) record at Middlebury was 64-21-11. Included in that success was a New England Championship and two NCAA Tournament appearances. Morrone's Middlebury teams enjoyed a 10-year stretch without losing two regular season games in a row.
In addition to his Hall of Fame coaching credentials, Morrone created a unique atmosphere within the UConn Men's Soccer program. In the 1970s he formed the "Friends of Soccer" organization at Connecticut and through the years his "Friends of Soccer" support group raised more than $2 million in support of the soccer program and members helped build the UConn soccer facility in Storrs.
In April of 1997, following the completion of his highly successful head coaching career, the UConn Board of Trustees approved the naming of the Connecticut Soccer Stadium in Storrs as the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The naming of the stadium recognizes the significant contributions that Morrone made to the growth of soccer on all levels, but most specifically at UConn.
Always stressing the importance of academics with athletics, Morrone saw nearly 96 percent of his UConn student-athletes earn degrees. In addition, 25 of his players earned All-America status and 30 went on to play soccer professionally.
A 1958 graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Morrone was selected as that school's Outstanding Senior Athlete after starring in soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse. In soccer, he was an All-New England selection, MVP and team captain. He added a master's degree from Worcester State College in 1963. Coach Morrone also served in the United States National Guard and will be buried with military honors.
Morrone was pre-deceased by his wife Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Morrone, who passed away Nov. 30, 2007.
Born October 20, 1935, Morrone is survived by a daughter and two sons: Melissa Taintor and her husband Rob of Storrs and their three children; Joe Morrone and his wife Ellen of Tolland and their two children, and Bill Morrone and his wife Jeanne of Brooklyn, Conn. and their four children. Coach Morrone was the proud Grandfather to nine grandchildren, Mitchell Taintor, Amy Taintor, Jared Taintor, Amber Morrone, Joey Morrone, Tyler Crosson, Nicholas Morrone, Kelsey Crosson, and Joelle Morrone. Coach Morrone is also survived by two great grandchildren, Kohen Taber and Annabelle Crosson.
All three of Coach Morrone's children were outstanding soccer student-athletes at the University of Connecticut, each earning All-American status during their respective college careers.
Joseph M Morrone (known as "Joe Jr.) was a three-time soccer All-American at UConn (1978-80) and was honored as the recipient of the Hermann Trophy in 1980, symbolic of the nation's top collegiate soccer star. Bill Morrone, a member of UConn's 1981 National Championship team, was a 1982 All-American, and Melissa (Morrone) Taintor was a women's soccer All-American at UConn in 1983.
Calling hours for Coach Morrone will take place the Tolland Memorial Funeral Home on 375 Merrow Road in Tolland, Conn., on Thursday, September 24 and Friday, September 25 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. each night.
A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 26 at St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel on the UConn campus at 46 North Eagleville Road.
To honor Coach Morrone, his family has requested donations be made in his memory to the "Joseph J. and Elizabeth A. Morrone Endowed Soccer Scholarship" using this site. The Joseph J. and Elizabeth A. Morrone Endowed Soccer Scholarship supports scholarships for UConn men's soccer student-athletes.