Michael Linenberger, a four-time conference Coach of the Year honoree, completed his 28th season leading Sacramento State in 2016. Under Linenberger's tutelage there have been 89 all-Conference honorees with 21 first team selections, four NCAA All-Far West Region selections, and one MPSF Player of the Year, and he has watched 37 of his former players go on to professional soccer careers. His 2014 Big West Coach of the Year honor was his fourth Coach of the Year award after earning the accolade three times in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF).
Linenberger took the program to new heights in 2016, finishing second in the Big West North division, hosting a Big West Tournament game, and winning a Big West postseason game all for the first time. The Hornets beat UC Riverside 2-1 to advance to the conference semifinals and played CSUN to a scoreless draw in the semifinals but was edged by the Matadors, 6-5, in penalty kicks to narrowly miss out on hosting the conference title game.
The Hornets finished the 2016 season with a 9-8-3 overall record and had seven players earn all-Big West honors with four second team selections, one honorable mention, and two named to the all-Freshman team. The Hornets had not received more than three all-Big West honors in a year through their first four seasons in the conference while the total number of all-conference honorees was also the most for the program since 2009.
Sacramento State had a player named to the all-Big West Freshman team for the third consecutive year in 2015, with forward Brad Bumgarner earning the accolade, and had two players named all-Big West Honorable Mention. In January of 2016 Linenberger took his team on a trip to Costa Rica, where the squad posted a 2-1-1 record facing reserves from some of the top professional teams in the country.
The 2014 Hornets qualified for the Big West Tournament for the first time with a three-win improvement over the 2013 season. Picked to finish last in the preseason Big West Coaches' poll, the Hornets finished ahead of Cal Poly to play in the first round of the league tournament. Senior forward Chimdum Mez was an all-Big West first team selection while Andrew Gosselin was honorable mention and Paul Geyer made the all-Freshman team. Mez was subsequently selected by the San Jose Earthquakes in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS Super Draft.
After moving Sacramento State into Div. I in 1991 and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in 1992, Linenberger once again guided his team into a new and exciting era in 2012. The Hornets joined the Big West North Division and finished third with an 8-8-2 overall record and a 5-4-1 Big West mark, finishing just shy of a qualifying spot for the Big West Championship. The team garnered four All-Big West honors, including first-team selections for seniors Matt Linenberger and Casey Bernard.
Linenberger and the Hornets moved into the Big West after a run of unprecedented success in the MPSF. The long-time head coach helped the Hornets to back-to-back MPSF Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament first-round wins in 2009 and 2010. He was named the MPSF Coach of the Year in 2009 after winning the regular season championship as well. Linenberger was also the MPSF Coach of the Year in 2001 after guiding the Hornets to their first MPSF regular season title.
Linenberger began his coaching career with the Hornets as an assistant in 1988 and became co-head coach in 1989 before taking sole control of the program in 1992. He has accumulated a record of 180-269-56 as a head coach.
In 2011 the Hornets finished third in the MPSF and second in the Coastal Division before falling in the MPSF Tournament. Sacramento State posted a 9-8-2 overall record with a 5-4-1 mark in conference play in 2011. It was the Hornets' third straight winning record after tallying a winning margin just twice in their previous 18 years in Div. I.
The Hornets set a school record with seven draws in 2010 during the regular season but turned on the offense in the MPSF conference tournament. Sacramento State scored 11 goals in three conference postseason games with a 6-2 win over No. 5 seed Air Force in the quarterfinals, a 3-1 defeat of No. 1 seed Denver in the semifinals and a 2-1 ovetime win over No. 2 seed Cal State Bakersfield in the championship match. The team continued to roll in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships, with a 2-1 win against Santa Clara before falling at UCLA in the second round.
Chris Bettencourt scored five goals, with two game-winners, in the five postseason games. Senior midfielder Ernesto Carranza, who was became the first-ever Hornet invited to the Major League Soccer (MLS) combine after the 2010 season, had 12 points in five postseason games, including a six point performance against Air Force.
His players received a slew of accolades after the fantastic 2009 campaign, including Ernesto Carranza who took home the league’s player of the year award. Carranza, Fernando Cabadas and Diego Marroquin were all named first-team All-MPSF and Carranza and Cabadas also earned All-Far West Region honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
Sacramento State posted an 8-9-2 mark in 2008, finishing fourth in the MPSF with a record of 3-7-0. Three Hornets earned all-conference honors, with Cabadas earning first team honors. Adam Owens (second team) and Omar Martinez (honorable mention) went on to graduate and head to Puerto Rico to continue their soccer careers at the professional level.
In 2003, Linenberger led the Hornet squad to its third-consecutive MPSF postseason appearance. It marked the first time Sacramento State had reached postseason play three consecutive years.
During the 2001 season, Linenberger guided the Hornets to their first regular-season conference championship in the Div. I era (1991-present). Sacramento State’s 4-1-2 MPSF record also gave the Hornets their most conference wins in program history at the time. Due to his efforts, Linenberger was named 2001 MPSF Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year.
Off the field, he served five years as a member of the NCAA Div. I national selection committee. Linenberger was named to the NCAA Div. I Men’s Soccer Committee in the fall of 1997. As chair of the Far West Region, he travelled to Indianapolis, and served as the region representative during the process of selecting the 48 teams that compete annually in the NCAA tournament. As a member of the NCAA soccer committee, Linenberger’s duties included overseeing site selection in the Far West Region for all rounds leading up to the Men’s College Cup, updating selection criteria and standards for the championships, rating conferences and serving at the College Cup as a member of the NCAA contingent which oversees the event.
From 2008 to 2011, Linenberger was also head coach of the U.S. Soccer Olympic Development Program for Region IV, overseeing all five age groups between U-14 and U-18 in the Northwest. Linenberger was in charge of coach selection, player selection and the overall training curriculum. In addition, Linenberger was named a scout by the U.S. Soccer Federation for Project 2010, an initiative designed to make the men’s national team fully competitive by the 2010 World Cup. His primary duties included the scouting of 13-14 year olds in Northern California that had future national team potential but were not in the ODP system.
Linenberger played professional soccer with the Sacramento Senators and for FC St. Pauli and SC Norderstedt in Germany’s second and third divisions. In addition, 33 of his former Sacramento State student-athletes have gone on to professional careers. That includes Joe Enochs, who was named to the 2001 U.S. National team. After a lengthly European playing career, Enochs was the head coach of VfL Osnabrück in 2011.
Linenberger received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Duke University in 1987. He was a four-year letterwinner as a member of the Blue Devils’ soccer team and a team captain. He was captain of the 1986 squad which won the NCAA Div. I national title.