Steve De Cou
Georgia Gwinnett College named coaching veteran Steve DeCou its first-ever head men’s soccer coach in January of 2012, and in the time since, he has developed the Grizzlies into one of the nation’s top teams. DeCou’s first nine GGC squads have posted a combined 113-36-17 record, with five Association of Independent Institutions championship titles over the last eight years. DeCou has led GGC into the NAIA national tournament seven times and produced 16 NAIA All-American selections, 20 NSCAA All-Region performers, and had 10 players earn NAIA Scholar-Athlete distinction.
Through the 2020-21 season, DeCou owns a career 234-128-32 head coaching record over 21 years, as his career includes previous stints at Belhaven (Miss.) from 2007-11, Trinity Christian (Ill.) from 2004-06 and Huntington (Ind.) from 2000-03.
DeCou’s Georgia Gwinnett squads have posted double-digit-win seasons in each of his first nine years in Lawrenceville and are consistently in the NAIA Top 25 picture. DeCou led the Grizzlies to an incredibly quick start, highlighted by back-to-back A.I.I. championships and NAIA tournament berths in the first two years of the program’s eligibility, as he was recognized as A.I.I. Coach of the Year in 2013 and the NSCAA Independent Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
DeCou guided GGC to its first NAIA Opening Round victory and trip to the NAIA national championship tournament in Delray Beach, Fla. in 2017. The Grizzlies defeated Southern Oregon in the NAIA Opening Round and then picked up a victory against Vanguard to reach the quarterfinal round. GGC ended the fall campaign ranked No. 8 in the NAIA and reached a program-high No. 5 ranking during the season. DeCou earned the A.I.I. Coach of the Year honors. Samuel Sampaio Gomes was named the program's first CoSIDA Academic All-America selection.
The Grizzlies once again made the final site in Irving, Calif. in 2018 with a 3-0 victory at Southeastern (Fla.) during the NAIA Opening Round. GGC captured the program's fourth A.I.I. title when it scored two second-half goals to defeat Bellevue (Neb.) at the Grizzly Soccer Complex. Defender Andrew White became the program's inaugural first-team All-American as a defender by the NAIA.
In 2019, Georgia Gwinnett College collected its 100th victory in program history during another A.I.I. championship season. The Grizzlies defeated Bellevue 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Krishna Clarke in the 94th minute to win the program's fifth conference title. GGC defeated Life (Ga.) 3-2 behind a goal from Ian Aramburu in the 89th minute during the NAIA Opening Round Lawrenceville Bracket to advance to the Round of 16 for the third consecutive season. Midfielder Toni Tiente was named the A.I.I. Player of the Year and garnered third NAIA All-America team accolades. Matija Gligorovic earned the Goalkeeper of the Year award by the A.I.I. and also was recognized as a honorable mention All-American. Forward Krishna Clarke rounded out the honorees on the NAIA honorable mention All-America team. Midfielder Alfredo Rivera was recognized as a second Academic All-America team selection by CoSIDA, marking the second member in program history to be recognized for athletic and academic success.
DeCou led GGC to its first unbeaten regular season and a top-10 national ranking during the 2020-21 campaign. The team posted a 10-2-2 record and hosted the NAIA Opening Round. Toni Tiente garnered first NAIA All-America team accolades as a midfielder, while Gianmaria Fiore earned second-team All-America honors. Matija Gligorovic and Karim Tmimi received honorable mention All-America recognition for the 2020-21 season.
The 2016 campaign saw DeCou lead the Grizzlies to the program’s third NAIA tournament berth in four seasons, an A.I.I. title and a 13-4-3 record. Led by four-year-senior and A.I.I. Player of the Year Lewis Sharpe in goal, the GGC defense was incredibly stingy, finishing seventh in the NAIA with 12 shutouts on the year. DeCou also assembled a host of attackers to lead the offense, as 11 different players notched goals for the Grizzlies. The season featured a win over then-No. 4 Thomas (Ga.) away from home, part of a 12-game unbeaten streak. Georgia Gwinnett posted five players on the All-A.I.I. First Team, leading all schools. The Grizzlies rolled by Fisher (Mass.) and Johnson & Wales (Colo.) in shutout fashion in Denver, Colo., to claim their third A.I.I. title in four seasons. At season’s end, Sharpe and junior attacker Samuel Sampaio Gomes earned NAIA All-American honorable mention recognition.
In 2015, the Grizzlies tallied double-digit wins for the fourth season in-a-row, capturing 10 victories. The Grizzlies featured another tough defense in 2015, yielding just 1.4 goals per game on the season. Sharpe was stellar in net all season long, helping secure five shutouts for GGC. The Grizzlies surrendered fewer than two goals in 10 games on the year, as countless contests would come down to the wire all season. Not only were three ties a new single-season high for GGC, but of the remaining 16 games during the year, 10 were decided by just one goal. Offensively, 10 different Grizzlies found the back of the net on the year as GGC outscored its opponents in total, 38-26.
In 2014, the Grizzlies continued to progress on a national level, including a program-best No. 7 national ranking during the regular season before ultimately ending the year at No. 19, marking the second consecutive season that GGC culminated with a top 20 NAIA ranking. With wins over a pair of top 15 opponents during the regular season, the focus once again turned to the A.I.I. Championship, which would take place in a frigid Clinton, Iowa. Battling temperatures that often dropped below 10 degrees, the Grizzlies beat No. 25 Cal State San Marcos in the semifinal on a goal just moments shy of the whistle in the second overtime, and returned a day later to pick up a snowy 2-1 win over Houston-Victoria to become the first A.I.I. program to hoist the league trophy in back-to-back seasons since 2010. Following the match, GGC hosted its first-ever NAIA Opening Round for men’s soccer, where the season would end with a loss against eventual national semifinalist Northwestern Ohio.
In 2013, the A.I.I. championship wasn’t quite as dramatic as it was eye-opening. After dispatching CSUSM in the semis, the Grizzlies ran rampant over third-ranked Ashford in the final, winning 3-0 on their home field in Lawrenceville to claim the school’s first-ever trophy in any sport in dominating fashion. Georgia Gwinnett’s A.I.I. title sent the squad to the NAIA Opening Round for the first time, where a second-half penalty kick by host and 13th-ranked Embry-Riddle (Fla.) ended GGC’s season in a 1-0 loss. The 15-5 year was filled with plenty of highlights, including an eight-match unbeaten streak heading into the NAIA tournament. GGC knocked off perennial power Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) on the road by a 1-0 score Sep. 11. The win over the 16th-ranked Warhawks stood as the first victory in program history over a ranked opponent for DeCou’s Grizzlies, a feat they would duplicate just two days later with a 3-2 overtime victory at #24 SCAD Savannah. DeCou was named the A.I.I.’s Coach of the Year for 2013.
In his first year guiding the Grizzlies program in 2012, DeCou led GGC to a fantastic season. DeCou’s Grizzlies opened the school’s inaugural 2012 campaign with a 12-0 victory over Tennessee Temple on Aug. 25, and remained in charge all season long, reaching six- and five-game winning streaks on the year. The team posted a stellar 15-2-1 final record, while going 7-1-1 at home in Lawrenceville. With less than eight months to recruit a team, create a schedule and launch his program, DeCou’s success surpassed expectations in year one as GGC dominated its opponents with a 93-9 scoring advantage. Senior goalkeeper Greg Hartley, a former NAIA All-American who chose to play his final collegiate season for DeCou after spending 2011 with him at Belhaven, allowed just eight goals all year in over 1,200 minutes for the Grizzlies. The GGC defense posted 11 shutouts (including a string of five straight) and did not allow more than two goals in a game. DeCou also guided senior forward Tom Butler to a season that won’t soon be repeated. Butler scored 28 goals and piled up 65 points to establish his name in the Grizzly record books. Five different Grizzlies posted 20 or more points on the season while 13 separate players tallied a goal. The Grizzlies’ lone home defeat came to the #1-rated MRPI team, Auburn-Montgomery, as GGC battled AUM to a hard-fought 1-0 loss Oct. 6. That game opened the Grizzlies’ beautiful new synthetic turf field, a place DeCou’s squad would win its final four games of the year.
DeCou came to GGC from Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., where he had the Blazers competing as a national power. During his tenure at Belhaven, DeCou posted five consecutive winning seasons (66-23-7 overall), and he led the Blazers to top 25 finishes in the final NAIA poll from 2009-11, while the 2010 and 2011 teams ranked in the top 10. DeCou coached his teams to the Round of 16 in the NAIA National Tournament for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Six players were selected as NAIA All-Americans, 10 players were named Academic All-Americans, 22 players were All-Conference selections, one was awarded the 2010 Southern States Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and one was named the 2011 SSAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Prior to his time at Belhaven, DeCou spent 2004-06 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, where he led the Trolls to a 27-28-4 record. His three-year stint was highlighted by a 13-8-2 season in 2005 that saw Trinity Christian selected to the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament.
From 2000-03, DeCou served as head coach of Huntington College in Huntington, Indiana, guiding the Foresters to their first winning campaign in eight years in 2001.
Including his 2013 recognition at GGC, DeCou has been named Conference/Association Coach of the Year four times. He was named SSAC Coach of the Year in 2010, following a 16-2-3 season, the 2008 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, following a 14-4-1 campaign and the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2005, following a 13-8-2 season.
DeCou is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he played soccer and earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education. He holds a master’s in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy. He holds a USSF “A” license and earned the NSCAA Premier Diploma in January 2014. He has served as president of the NAIA Men’s Soccer Association Executive Committee and is a member of the NAIA Ratings Oversight Committee, NAIA National Tournament Selection Committee and NAIA National Tournament Games Committee.
In addition to his involvement with NAIA soccer, DeCou spent three summers coaching in the United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League, serving as an assistant in 2006 and 2007 with the Chicago Fire Premier and as head coach of Mississippi Brilla FC in 2008.
The move to Georgia Gwinnett College brought DeCou closer to family as his wife, Amy, is originally from Georgia, and his parents are located in Charleston, S.C. Steve and Amy DeCou are proud parents of their daughter, Sadie Jane.