Alejo Binaghi played soccer and dreamed of being a professional player since he was three years old. Today, because of the University of Mobile intercollegiate athletic program, that dream is within his grasp. After an outstanding year that brought the Rams to a second-place finish in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship finals in December 2021, UM student athletes and Coach Daniel Whelan earned multiple honors. Binaghi, the soccer program’s first student-athlete from Argentina, was named NAIA Men’s Soccer Player of the Year for 2021 – the second Ram in the program’s history to earn the title, after Stephen Okai in 2012.
It could only have happened at the University of Mobile.
“During my time at the University of Mobile, I met outstanding athletes and coaches that have pushed me forward to become the athlete I want to be. I believe this past season as a soccer player was the best year of my life achieving individual and team awards, none of which would be possible without the help of this university,” says the senior majoring in business management in the Grace Pilot School of Business.
The men’s soccer program is a great example of the impact UM’s athletic program can have. Five of seven continents are represented on a roster that consists of student-athletes from 19 nations. These student-athletes from different cultures come together and unite for the opportunity to play the sport they love while earning a degree to better their future. In the process of competing at the highest level, these teammates have grown a bond and become a family.
Collegiate athletics has an impact that goes beyond the playing field, especially at the University of Mobile, says Dr. Mel Sansom, athletic director and vice president for business services.
“Athletic skills improve, multiple cultures are brought together, life-long friendships are formed and athletes grow closer to Jesus. In many cases the good news of Jesus Christ might be heard for the first time because of the opportunity collegiate athletics creates for different cultures from across the world,” says Sansom.
University of Mobile intercollegiate athletics started in 1985 with 14 student-athletes competing in two sports. Today, UM sponsors 21 competitive sports. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) with 250 member institutions and 77,000 student- athletes. Throughout the program’s existence, student-athletes from across the world have been impacted by UM’s Christ-centered athletic program. Many former Rams have gone on to excel in a variety of fields, including former UM baseball players Joe Espada and J.C. Romero who have found success in Major League Baseball. Romero pitched 14 seasons in MLB, winning the 2008 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. Espada currently serves as the bench coach for the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball, his third MLB team.