Few collegiate coaches in any sport can claim to have literally built his or her squad from the ground up, but UMD head coach Greg Cane has been there for every single steps of the Bulldogs’ transition from club-level to a perennial contender in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and, in 2013, one of the top teams in all of NCAA Division II, finishing the year ranked seventh by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Cane officially became the first head soccer coach in Bulldog history in 1994, and has paced the sideline for each of the team’s 446 matches during the program’s 24-year existence. During that time, the Duluth native has won at a .613 clip, piling up an overall record of 251-150-45.
The longevity has him not only as one of the top coaches in the NSIC, but also as one of the most successful coaches in the nation. With 266 collegiate victories under his belt, Cane sits 13th in most wins among NCAA Division II coaches entering his 25th season.
His latest grand achievement came in 2017 when he notched his 250th win at UMD, making him the 10th coach at the Division II level to hit the milestone with a single program. As the longest active coach inside the athletic department, Cane has molded the Bulldogs to 15 winning seasons and three NCAA postseason appearances.
After a debut season that produced a 2-4-1 overall record, UMD went on to post double-digit win totals every year from 1995-2003 under Cane. The Bulldogs joined the upstart NSIC in 1996 and have claimed the league crown five times (1997, 1998, 2001-03) as well as five conference tournament titles (1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2009) in 17 seasons of NSIC competition (The Bulldogs spent four seasons in the now-defunct North Central Conference from 2004-07). Cane has twice led UMD to unblemished conference marks (1997 and 2003) and both times been named the NSIC Coach of the Year in those seasons.
Cane and the Bulldogs took a big step in officially establishing themselves as a legitimate program when the team claimed its first-ever national ranking in 1999. One year later, UMD set a team record with 17 wins and would be ranked as high as eighth nationally en route to capturing the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth. The team matched that win total in 2013 and made its biggest splash yet in the postseason, hosting the NCAA II Central Region Tournament where it knocked off No. 22-ranked Winona State 1-0 in the second round (As the top seed, UMD received a bye in the opening round) and Southwest Minnesota 2-0 in the regional final before being knocked off by eventual NCAA II National Champion Grand Valley State, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. UMD would finish seventh in the final National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll besting its 15th-ranked finish from the turn of the century.
The Bulldogs have been a model of consistency under the guidance of Cane in the upper midwest. His keen eye for talent and development has harvested 27 different NSCAA/Daktronics All-Central Region players including three All-Americans in Clare Dahmen and Hannah Bengston in 2009 and Maria Leider the following season. Additionally, Cane has manufactured a trio of NSIC Offensive Players of the Year, a pair of NSIC Defensive Players of the Year and a NSIC Newcomer of the Year (Sheridan Reiners) in 2014.
For a three-year period, Cane doubled as the head coach of UMD women’s tennis starting in 1995. Under the watch of Cane, the Bulldogs produced a 30-15 overall record and won three-straight NSIC titles. In his first season, UMD set a single-season record for victories and winning percentage with a 15-2 mark as the Bulldogs made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional. For his efforts, Cane was named the 1995 NSIC Coach of the Year.
Following his graduation from Duluth’s Cathedral High School, Cane played varsity soccer for three seasons at the College of St. Scholastica. After graduating from CSS in 1983 with bachelor’s degrees in both secondary education and history, he remained at his alma mater as the head coach of the men’s soccer varsity team.
In his nine years with the Saints, Cane rolled up a 106-53-12 mark while winning two National Small Colleges Athletic Association National Championships and five NAIA District 12 titles. The 1988 NSCAA Coach of the Year Award recipient averaged 12 wins per campaign with CSS and endured just one losing season. Cane later played an integral role in establishing the St. Scholastica women’s soccer program in 1990 and posted an overall mark of 15-35-2 as the team’s head coach from 1990-93. In September 2013, Cane was inducted into the St. Scholastica Athletic Hall of Fame.
Cane lives in Duluth with his wife, Patti. Their daughter, Amanda, is a 2011 graduate of St. Scholastica and owns JaneCane Photography in Duluth.