MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former University of Memphis men’s soccer coach Chris Bartels passed away Monday in Memphis. He was 69.
Bartels served as the Tigers’ second head coach in program history from 1988-1998. He finished his 11-year career with a 110-89-19 record and helped lead Memphis to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1993 behind the program’s first conference championship.
Bartels is survived by his wife, Victoria, and three children, Teddy, Ross and Thomas. Teddy Bartels has served on the Memphis women’s soccer staff since 2018 and has been a vital part of the program’s success in his three years.
“First off, thoughts and condolences to his family,” men’s soccer head coach Richard Mulrooney said. “It’s such sad news. The soccer community is big here in Memphis, but it’s also small in the fact that three or four people reached out and it spread like wildfire. He meant that much to people, not only on the field but off. A lot of my friends played for him. He recruited me. Memphis was one of my final choices, and he was a big reason why I was going to come here. I trusted him. He was always fair. He laid the foundation and took the program to the levels we have today. I’m proud to be representing what he built and knowing he set a great example. He’s known as a soccer coach, but more than that he’s a great father and great person. He’ll be missed. We won’t forget the legacy he created at the University of Memphis.”
During his tenure at Memphis, Bartels coached six All-Region players and 17 All-Conference selections, including two Great Midwest Conference Tournament MVPs, two all-freshman honorees and a conference Newcomer of the Year.
Brooks Monaghan, 21-year head coach of the Memphis women’s soccer team, was one of those all-conference selections. Monaghan anchored the Memphis goal as a keeper for Bartels’ teams from 1992-94. Monaghan also earned Defensive MVP in the 1993 GMC Championship.
“Coach Bartels is Memphis soccer,” Monaghan said. “When it comes to soccer at the University of Memphis, he’s one of the first you think of. I had the pleasure to play three seasons for him. Not only was he a very good coach, but he was a wonderful person. I’m thankful I was able to reconnect with him over the last few years because his son Teddy is on our staff and plays a massive role within our team. With Teddy being a coach for us, Coach Bartels would come out to our games, and I’ve got some great memories visiting with him and talking soccer with him after our games. It’s very tough. He’ll definitely be missed. I’m proud to say I played for Coach Bartels.”
A New Jersey native, Bartels attended River Dell High School in Oradell, N.J., before earning a soccer scholarship to play at Bowling Green. Bartels captained the Falcons to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1972, earning All-Region, All-State and All-Conference honors. As a junior at BGSU, Bartels worked in the public relations department for the New York Cosmos of the NASL.
After graduating in 1973 with a degree in journalism and public relations, Bartels stayed at BGSU and assisted with the program until he became a player/coach for the Athletes in Action soccer team. In 1980, Bartels returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach and physical education instructor while earning his master’s degree in physical education.
Having worked as a general manager or coach for three professional soccer teams, Bartels arrived in Memphis in 1982 as an assistant coach and player-personnel director for the Memphis Americans of the Major Indoor Soccer League. He was named head coach and general manager of the Kalamazoo Kangaroos of the American Indoor Soccer Association, before returning to the Bluff City to serve as general manager of the Memphis Storm from 1986-87.
Bartels made an immediate impact on the UofM program after taking over, going .500 or better in six of his first seven seasons. In 1991, Bartels was voted Great Midwest Conference Coach of the Year, while his 1992 squad produced a 14-win season, including the program’s only undefeated season in league play.
In 1993, the Tigers earned a trip to their first NCAA Tournament in program history, rallying in the Great Midwest Conference Tournament to defeat nationally-ranked Saint Louis and claim the GMC Championship.
In 1997, Bartels’ squad upset the No. 8 Portland Pilots for the then-highest ranked win in program history. In addition, that season’s squad became nationally ranked for the first time in program history.
Bartels also advocated for major improvements in the program and soccer facilities. Working with the athletic department and soccer development clubs in the community, historic Echles Field improved in many areas, including a permanent seating initiative which increased capacity to 1,000.
Off the field, Bartels brought out the best in his student-athletes, helping land nine members on the Great Midwest Conference All-Academic Team in 1993 and 11 in 1992. The University of Memphis recognized the men’s soccer team during those seasons with the highest GPA on campus, while Bartels’ Tigers also had the highest graduation rate among UofM’s athletic programs.
His teams annually competed against the nation’s top programs and brought an exciting brand of soccer to the Mid-South. Following his coaching career at the University of Memphis, Bartels continued to share his passion and develop soccer talent in the Memphis area.
He resumed a teaching role and coaching duties at Briarcrest Christian School. Bartels also continued to remain active locally in youth soccer, having coached with the Dragons, MFC and Lobos as well as one year as the State Coach of Tennessee. In 2008, Bartels founded Germantown Legends as Club Director, where he most recently served as Executive Director.