To Pepe Fernandez, it was just another win.
It wasn’t until moments after his Maryville College men’s soccer team beat Berea College on Oct. 12 that the 33-year head coach was told by his wife, Fran, what the win meant.
For Fernandez, it was a career milestone: win No. 400 on the men’s side, all of which have taken place as the leader of the Scots’ program since 1989.
He remembers crunching the numbers early in the offseason to see if the goal was achievable, but by the time the 2021 season had kicked off in August, Fernandez put it out of mind — until he was reminded.
“I didn’t even know it was happening the day before the game,” Fernandez told The Daily Times. “I had looked at it early in the year and Fran (Fernandez) had mentioned after the game that it was (win) 400. I had seen it during the summer and we all had talked about it but we forgot about it since then. It’s pretty interesting that I’ve been around for this many games and been around this many great people.”
Fernandez, a Franklin native and 1985 Tennessee Wesleyan alum, got his start in coaching as an assistant for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga soccer team in 1985 before joining the high school coaching ranks.
That journey led him to Maryville in 1989 and in that time, Fernandez has guided both the Scots men’s and women’s teams to a total of 16 NCAA Tournament appearances and a combined career record of 782-328-77.
The win over Berea pushed his career record with the men’s team to 400-171-38 overall, but it also lent perspective for Fernandez.
When he took over the MC program, he and Fran Fernandez didn’t envision their longevity in Maryville, but the people they’ve crossed paths with along the way helped keep them here.
“The way I got connected to the job was that a few of my dad’s players that played club soccer for my dad called me and told me there was a job opening in Maryville,” Fernandez said. “I didn’t know anything about it and I came down here and interviewed. Fran was a reporter at the (Chattanooga) Free Press at the time and she had called about a job at The Daily Times and she went to work at The Daily Times and I went to work at Maryville College.
“We told each other that we’d go there for a couple of years and see how it goes, you know, not knowing much about it. The main thing that has kept us here is it’s a good place to work and the people have treated us great.”
While reaching the 400-win mark is a testimony to Fernandez’s coaching abilities, he believes that personal accolades wouldn’t have been possible without all of the players and assistant coaches that have served under him throughout the years.
To him, it’s just as much their accomplishment as it is his.
“You know, as a soccer coach, you have some responsibilities,” Fernandez said. “You try to set a culture and you have a style of play that you try to implement. But it’s really such a players game. All those wins, I’d like to tell you that I made all these great tactical decisions, but that’s not the case.
“It’s been about great players having great moments. I’ve been able to work with just some of the best people around.”