By Drew Olson Special to Published Sep 06, 2007 at 5:35 AM

At some point Friday, when the September sun sinks in the sky and the afternoon takes its gentle turn toward evening, Marquette University men's soccer coach Louis Bennett will stand alone in front of a mirror, knot his tie and prepare to lead his team out to face Xavier on the turf at Valley Field.

His hands may tremble a little. His eyes might dampen, too. The final hours before a match are always exciting and emotional for a coach, but Bennett knows the feelings that wash over him during that private moment will be different.

In addition to corner kicks, counter-attacks and the usual concerns about the quality of his team's pre-game preparation, Bennett will think about life, death, love, loss and long bus rides through the Midwest. A thousand miles away, Bennett's close friend, Brian Tompkins, the head men's coach at Yale University, will be experiencing similar sentiments in the quiet moments before his team plays host to Northwestern at Reese Stadium in New Haven, Conn.

The tie that binds the two coaches will be their neckties.

Bennett, who was Tompkins' assistant and eventual successor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, started wearing ties on the sideline "a long time ago" and convinced Tompkins to do the same.

The ties that the men wear Friday night will have special meaning because they once belonged to their friend, Doug Beard, who died in June at the age of 46.

At the family's request, the cause of Beard's death was not revealed. "I'm still not entirely sure what exactly happened," said Tompkins, who was the best man when Beard married his wife, Pat, on a beach in Door County. "Pat decided it was a family matter and we've respected that."

Beard was a senior associate athletic director at the University of Wisconsin. Prior to that, he spent a dozen years at UW-Milwaukee, where he was a boss, friend and mentor to a couple of young coaches from Great Britain.

"Doug was one of those guys who are essential in athletics, particularly in college athletics and probably sports in general," Tompkins said of Beard, a native of Maine who worked at UW-Stout before going to UWM. "They are the people behind the scenes who work hard and make everything run.

"Doug wasn't a glamorous guy or an attention seeker. In fact, he was the complete opposite of that. His strength was his humility and classic New England understatement."

Though the relationship was cordial and professional from the start, Tompkins said he and Bennett bonded with Beard during long soccer road trips.

"Louis and Doug and I would sit up in the front of the bus," Tompkins said. "The kids would be sleeping in the back. We'd drive across Ohio or Michigan and we'd talk about life. We'd talk about the future and what our aspirations were. It was almost like therapy."

Bennett agreed.

"Doug was a hands-on guy who wasn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get in the sandbox with the rest of us," he said. "He was one of those people you meet and work with and you become friends and then you find yourself using some of the things that you learned from him.

"Brian and I are at different schools now, but we're both doing things that we learned from Doug."

Tompkins, who spoke at Beard's funeral, came up with the idea of wearing the blue ties as a tribute.

"It's a small gesture, but something we feel is important," he said. "Louie and I both feel that without Doug, we wouldn't be enjoying the professional success that we've had.

"But, it was more than the professional stuff. Louis and I talked about all the things Doug did for us and wondered how we could pay him back.

"Pat said that Doug only had two blue ties in his collection. I have one and Louis has the other."

When the games end on Friday night, Tompkins and Bennett will take off their ties and store them until next year.

"We'll find out when we're both playing at the same time," Bennett said. "It'll probably be a Friday night. (Brian) may kick off an hour earlier, but there will be a time when we're playing at the same time and we'll both reflect a bit and give a little bit of credence and kudos to Doug."

Neither Tompkins nor Bennett plans to tell their players about the tribute to Beard.

"Northwestern is ranked No. 10 in the country," Tompkins said. "They've got enough on their minds. This is really just for me and Louis and for Pat (Beard). Pat worked in the (UWM Athletics) department for many, many years and she's a great lady. A big part of our doing this is to help her keep Doug alive in a compassionate kind of way.

"It's the least we can do for all that Doug did for us."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.