The word first comes up many times when you talk about the career of Carl Rees, who enters his 22nd season as the head coach of the Fairfield University soccer program. And every one of those firsts represents a positive benchmark for the Stags.
He was the first Fairfield University coach to win an NCAA tournament game when he led his team to a 2-1 win over the University of Connecticut in the 2006 edition. He was the first men's soccer coach to garner a post-season berth, a number which now stands at four berths including the 1999, 2006, 2008, and 2011 NCAA tournaments.
Fairfield played the University of Illinois-Chicago in the 1999 play-in round, dropping a 1-0 decision. The Stags fared better in the 2006 tourney as they picked up a road win against UConn before falling to Towson University in the second round. In 2008, an own goal was the difference in the team's match up with UConn as the Huskies hung on for a 1-0 first-round win. The team advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time under Rees in 2011, as the Stags dropped a 3-2 decision to Brown on the road.
Rees was responsible for another first when he led the 1998 team captured the program's first-ever national ranking. The Stags secured the number 24 position in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) top-25 poll. It would be the first of six seasons in which Rees led his team to a national ranking.
Fairfield reached as high as 15th in the 2000 national poll before ranking 12th in the 2001 poll, the highest national ranking by any Fairfield athletic team. The program also secured national rankings in 2005 (24th), 2006 (15th), and 2007 (17th).
Rees has never shied away from playing top competition as well, regularly playing teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, and the Ivy League. The Stags have also had its share of wins against nationally-ranked teams, the most recent coming in the 2008 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship game as the Stags posted a 1-0 win over sixth-ranked Loyola University to advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Stags have certainly flourished under Rees, winning 60 percent of their games overall and 66 percent of their MAAC regular-season games. The program has advanced to seven MAAC championship games under Rees and won three of those appearances. Through 21 seasons, Rees owns a 198-134-57 overall record and a 117-54-21 mark in MAAC play
Rees turned around a program which struggled in its infancy. Fairfield soccer registered just two winning seasons in its first 22 years of existence. All that changed when Rees took over the program in 1996. After posting six wins in each of his first two seasons at the helm, the Stags responded with a school record 15 victories in 1998 en route to their first MAAC championship game appearances under Rees.
Fairfield would go on to win 10 or more games in four straight seasons, averaging 13 wins per year from 1998 to 2001. The team would win seven MAAC regular-season games in each of those four years as well. Rees would also put together another run of four successive double-digit win seasons, starting with 13 in 2006 and ending with 11 in 2008.
During that 2005 campaign, Fairfield would post an 8-0-1 MAAC regular-season record, the only time the Stags have posted an unblemished conference record. While the team would lose in the conference championship game that year, Fairfield would rebound with a regular-season title and a conference championship in 2006, finishing the year with a 15-6-1 overall record and a 7-2 MAAC mark.
Rees is the all-time winningest coach in Fairfield soccer history with 198 victories. He won his 100th career game in 2005, defeating Niagara University in the conference tournament for the prestigious victory.
Originally from Bebington, England, Rees was Hartwick's team captain for his junior and senior seasons. He was a three-year starter on defense before moving to forward as a senior. He led the team in scoring that season with 10 goals and four assists, raising his career scoring total to 24 goals and 13 assists.
As a coach, Rees served as a Region I Olympic Development staff coach and holds a United States Soccer Federation "B" coaching license. Rees also holds a NSCAA advanced national diploma.
His player experience also extends to the international level, playing with the Everton and Liverpool Football Club youth teams before deciding to attend Hartwick College in 1984. He was inducted into the Hartwick College Hall of Fame in June, 2007.
He also played a role in the 1994 World Cup which was played in the United States. Rees worked with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) during the event, working primarily at the Meadowlands venue in East Rutherford, N.J.