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Longtime collegiate soccer coach Aydin Gonulsen, who led the then-Sangamon State University men's soccer teams to three national championships, has died. He was 78. 

Gonulsen remained as coach at the school through its transition to the University of Illinois Springfield and retired in 2001. He led the Prairie Stars to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics men’s soccer championships in 1986, 1988, and 1993, was a two-time NAIA national Coach of the Year, an NAIA Hall of Fame member, and was a 2002 inductee into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame.

Though he retired after a 25-year run at UIS where he didn't have a losing season until his final year, he couldn't stay away from the game long. By that time, Gonulsen lived in Carlinville and in 2007, he came out of retirement to guide the Blackburn Beavers' men's and women's soccer teams. He won 71 more games there before he eventually retired for good in 2013. That January, Gonulsen had neck surgery and his doctors told him to take it easy in drill instructions but Gonulsen said that would alter his coaching style too much. 

Gonulsen was also the first athletic director at Sangamon State/UIS and in his first year in the job, helped get Kiwanis Stadium, where the UIS soccer teams still play, built.

UIS issued a press release on Tuesday afternoon. 

“UIS is saddened to learn of the passing of legendary head men’s soccer coach Aydin Gonulsen," the statement said. "He was named the first athletic director and head soccer coach at Sangamon State University (now UIS) in 1977. He proceeded to build the men's soccer program from the ground up. As a coach in the NAIA, Gonulsen amassed around 400 career victories and took SSU to three national championships in 1986, 1988 and 1993. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 6, 2021.

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