Florida Tech Panthers Establishes New Soccer Scholarship in Honor of Past Coaches Eldridge, Navaretta
By Adam Lowenstein, Florida Tech News Bureau // April 17, 2023
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech is proud to announce the establishment of the Eldridge and Navaretta Scholarship Endowment, a fund that, once endowed, will support undergraduate scholar-athletes in men’s soccer.
The fund is named after pioneering Florida Tech soccer coaches J. Michael Eldridge and Peter Navaretta, who each spent a decade or more developing soccer at Florida Tech and laying the foundation for today’s successes.
When the scholarship is endowed, recipients will be chosen by a three-member selection committee made up of the university’s athletic director, head soccer coach, and assistant soccer coach. The recipient shall be a male soccer player who is a full-time student in good academic standing with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.
Eldridge was a long-time educator and soccer coach when, in 1974, he accepted the position of head coach of Florida Tech’s team. He brought credibility, prestige, and coaching acumen to the Melbourne campus, where he later earned U.S. Soccer Federation certification and would go on to serve two terms as president of the Florida Intercollegiate Soccer Coaches Association.
Under his leadership, Florida Tech’s team was ranked in the top 5 of the NCAA Division II South Region from 1978 to 1982. His legacy at Florida Tech includes a win/loss record of 89-43-22.
His players formed strong bonds and lifelong friendships as Eldridge led them to many outstanding victories. “I am still so proud of all the athletes who diligently worked to achieve so much,” he recently recalled.
In the early 1980s, still working as a part-time soccer coach, Eldridge relocated to North Carolina due to a promotion in his financial planning work. A Certified Financial Planner professional, Eldridge had a successful 31-year career before retiring in 2015. Even after the move, he continued coaching.
In 1971, Navaretta, who was an award-winning collegiate soccer player, was named the director of student affairs at Florida Tech’s Cocoa Beach/Port Canaveral campus. He was impressed with all the campus offered but realized it was missing athletics, so he went and formed a soccer team. When the school, faculty and students were relocated to Jensen Beach later that year, the soccer team went, too.
In Jensen Beach, the soccer team flourished. Students and players from around the world truly bonded. “They became brothers,” Navaretta said recently, “and the community was like family.” They spread the gospel of soccer by hosting clinics for area youth, which in turn spurred interest around the region.
“The players at the small Jensen Beach campus were the true proponents of the sport of soccer, and they shared that with the community,” he recalled.
Like Eldridge, Navaretta gravitated toward the financial world, and in 1983 he accepted a financial advisor position at E.F. Hutton. Forty years later he continues to work in the field.
Those wishing to contribute to the scholarship fund are encouraged to consider making a gift to the endowment.
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