The Daily Gamecock

Player, coach, banker: Charlie Arndt's legacy extends beyond the soccer pitch

A wide shot of Eugene E. Stone III Stadium prior to the South Carolina men's soccer game against Georgia State on Sept. 22, 2023. Before the game, the team retired former Gamecock goalkeeper Charlie Arndt's jersey.
A wide shot of Eugene E. Stone III Stadium prior to the South Carolina men's soccer game against Georgia State on Sept. 22, 2023. Before the game, the team retired former Gamecock goalkeeper Charlie Arndt's jersey.

For a University of South Carolina student-athlete to have their jersey retired, they must be well-rounded.

According to the university, retired jerseys are selected by a committee of representatives from the Gamecocks Athletics Department, USC board of trustees and the USC Lettermen’s Association. They take into consideration one’s postseason, national and conference recognitions, as well as school records, impact on team accomplishments and even academic achievement.

Former teammates and players who know former Gamecock goalkeeper Charlie Arndt said he excelled in every aspect of life on and off the pitch, which led to him becoming only the second Gamecock men's soccer player to have his jersey retired, following former professional soccer player Clint Mathis.

Arndt was raised in Silver Springs, Maryland, and was born to German immigrants who settled down in the United States.Arndt said his parents’ courage to immigrate and dedication to his growth helped him become a good person while visits back to Germany allowed him to develop a love of soccer.

"I'm fortunate to have grown up with parents that were deeply committed to my development, took a lot of risk in coming over to the United States," Arndt said. "Blessed me with a good head on my shoulders and instilled in me the kind of work ethic and honesty, integrity that are important in not only in life but in business."

Arndt joined the Gamecocks in 1985 but did not play much in his first season because established goalkeeper Warren Lipka, the 1985  national Goalkeeper of the Year, was ahead of him on the depth chart.

Arndt said Lipka was a mentor to him and helped shape his character.

"It's one of the reasons why I went to the University of South Carolina because, even on my recruiting trip, the chance to spend time with Warren Lipka, see the kind of leader he was, how he trained," Arndt said. "He really set the tone for me as the kind of player that I wanted to be."

After spending his first year of college in a learning role, Arndt would be the Gamecocks' starting goalkeeper for the next three seasons, including earning the title of national Goalkeeper of the Year in 1988, and brought the team to its first College Cup that same year.

Arndt still holds the program record for lowest career goals against average at 0.70 and ranks second in solo shutouts with 24, fourth in save percentage, fifth in minutes played and eighth in total saves.

At South Carolina, Arndt also met current Furman head men's soccer coach Doug Allison. Allison was a forward playing on the opposite side of the field, but he and Arndt said they developed a close relationship as teammates that lasts to this day.

"Goalkeeping is about keeping a shutout, and if I do my job, we're no better than tying the game," Arndt said. "Playing with somebody as talented as Doug, we always knew we were good for a goal a game, and our kind of unspoken communication was, 'You score, I save.'"

Allison said one individual statistic in particular — shutouts — was of particular importance to Arndt.

"He was really proud to keep the ball out of the back of the net," Allison said. "He had a couple of strange mannerisms as far as always having, carrying a towel, biting a towel and carrying that in his mouth. Putting on this little black eyeline stuff under his eyes, you know, what football players do now, and I think he thinks it made him look pretty tough."

With his jersey now retired, Arndt said he credits his career success to his parents, coaches and teammates for giving him someone to lean on.

"There were so many people who were involved in not only my development, but my success on the field," Arndt said. "I was surrounded by greatness everywhere, and I'm deeply honored to accept the award."

After graduating and playing in Germany, Arndt returned to the United States and found his next calling: banking and financial services. Arndt, who currently serves as the South Carolina Market Leader at Fifth Third Bank, said he was worried skills from his soccer career wouldn’t translate to business but soon found out many of the same aspects he loved about the game are present in banking.

"It's not something that I expected would be translatable but quite frankly the, when you think about playing the position the way I played it and not only leading but also motivating teammates," Arndt said. "I take that same kind of pride in how I conduct myself and lead our team here in South Carolina."

Arndt couldn't stay away from the sport for long, though, and soon found a new way to be involved with soccer by becoming a volunteer assistant coach at Furman in 1995. At the time, Allison was just beginning his head coaching tenure with the Paladins, and after connecting with Arndt, the two made an arrangement for Arndt to coach on a volunteer basis.

As a coach, Allison said Arndt chooses an old-school approach, presenting himself seriously. However, an old-school approach does not mean Arndt is serious all the time. 

According to former Furman goalie Scott Blount, Arndt got creative with his old-school methods when Blount was recovering from a foot injury

"He's like 'Well, why don't you eat a big bowl of spaghetti, make sure you got plenty of carbs in you, and I'll see you after work around 6,'" Blount said. "I eat my spaghetti at 2:00. Well, right around 3:00, I got a call 'Hey man, got off of work early. Meet me at the field.'"

The two met up to work out, but after a few reps, Blount said he had to stop. However, it was not because of his injury. 

"I’ll tell you that when I dove and spaghetti came flying out of my mouth, I caught the spaghetti and not the ball, and I got up, and I looked down, and I was like, 'Is this what you wanted?'" Blount said. "I threw the spaghetti at him, and he's just laughing. But what he did, which at the time I didn't realize it, is he took my mind off of my injury."

Blount and Arndt have remained close in the years since, and Arndt even officiated Blount's wedding. 

"He still gives, and he still constantly tries to think of others before himself, and he's taught me a lot about how to be a better human being," Blount said. "He's continued to be a pillar in this community."

Arndt said he is proud of the relationships he’s developed with his soccer peers, who have become his family.

"I'm not married, I don't have any kids, my parents are deceased, and I don't have any brothers or sisters," Arndt said. "It's very much become an extension, it's become my family, and I can tell you that 30 years worth of getting to know freshman, sophomore, junior, senior classes, I feel like I've been really blessed with relationships that no other person I know has had that opportunity.”

His long-lasting relationships with the players he coached eventually led to the creation of the Coach Charlie Arndt Endowed Scholarship for Men's Soccer at Furman. The endowment is funded by donations from Furman men's soccer alumni and provides scholarships to goalkeepers on the Paladins men's soccer team.

"When people ask me 'Why do I do it?' All you got to do is look at the friendships and relationships that I've been able to build," Arndt said. "What once started out as just kind of a selfish endeavor on my part to try to stay involved in a game has evolved into something so much more."


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