When the Charlotte 49ers advanced to the championship game of the NCAA men's soccer College Cup this month, athletics director Judy Rose knew she would have a tough time keeping coach Jeremy Gunn.
"We laughed because we knew it was coming," Rose said Wednesday, a few hours after Gunn resigned to take the men's soccer coach's job at Stanford. "We didn't know who or when, but we knew it was coming."
Gunn, 40, had a five-year record of 64-26-14 at Charlotte, including this season's run to the national championship game, where the unseeded 49ers lost 1-0 to North Carolina.
Gunn's move returns him to the west coast, where he played at Cal State Bakersfield in 1989-92 after coming to the United States from England.
"It was going to have to be a very unique opportunity to get me to leave Charlotte," said Gunn. "It was a tough decision to leave such a wonderful place.
"I don't know how to make this clear: There has never been any question about how strong and positive the support has been for the soccer program from the university and the soccer community in Charlotte. I really do appreciate it."
Gunn takes over a Cardinal program that has been among the country's elite in the past but stumbled to a 6-10-2 record this season. The Stanford job came open when Bret Simon resigned after the season.
Gunn's resignation comes as his career appears to be peaking. He has a 13-year record of 187-61-31 at Charlotte and Division II Fort Lewis (Colo.). His Fort Lewis team won a national title in 2005.
Gunn had to inform the 49ers players of his decision via email, since most of them are scattered during the holidays.
"From the players' perspective, we didn't expect him to leave," said midfielder Donnie Smith. "Looking at it from the outside, though, with us getting to the final four and all he did for the program, he definitely deserves it."
Gunn had received a three-year contract extension in 2010 and was making about $65,000 per year (although that was supplemented by soccer camp income). There was no buyout clause in his contract.
Rose said she and Chancellor Phil Dubois made a "competitive, substantial" counter to Gunn after Stanford made its job offer. Gunn said he also heard from Kentucky and Michigan about their men's soccer coaching vacancies.
Rose, who has had to recently replace two women's basketball coaches and a golf coach who left for schools in Bowl Championship Series conferences, said what Gunn did with the men's soccer program will have a lasting impact at Charlotte.
The game against North Carolina was the first time a 49ers team in any sport played for a national championship.
"He gave us a taste of it," Rose said. "He kind of raised the bar for everyone around here. We know it's doable."