Baker falls to Jewell; Frangoulis resigns
On Saturday, Baker University fell 28-27 in overtime to arch-rival William Jewell after leading 21-7 going into the fourth quarter. On Monday, after eight years at the helm, BU head football coach John Frangoulis resigned.
Were the two related? Hard to tell as Frangoulis didn't return the Signal's phone calls. Rumors had circulated over the summer that he'd be gone if the Wildcats didn't have a winning record. Those rumors had picked up again at the end of the season when it became obvious the Wildcats would finish under .500. Saturday's loss left Baker with a 4-6 mark, a one-game improvement over last year's 3-8 record.
Baker athletic director Dan Harris said Frangoulis made the choice.
"John decided it was time for him to step down," said Harris. "I think what he's concerned about is he was involved in the winning tradition here and has chosen to step down so we can pursue that again. It's his decision.
"You have to make that decision quickly in this business," he said. "He met with me and the president Monday and chose to make that decision."
Frangoulis compiled a record of 45-39 during his eight-year stint. He was defensive coordinator for three years before being named head coach. Frangoulis led the Wildcats to two bowl game appearances -- the Wheat Bowl in his initial season in 1996 and the KWTO Bowl in 2001. His teams finished in the top half of the conference in each of his first six years.
Late Monday afternoon, Frangoulis met with the team and made his announcement. It wasn't welcome news to his players.
"It took me a little bit to get used to it. It hit me pretty hard," said sophomore lineman Mark Gastelum, a home-town product from Baldwin. "He's the guy who recruited me. He's the one who believed in me. It really huts to lose a guy like that.
"It was pretty tough on the team," said Gastelum. "I think as a team we're going to miss him."
Gastelum had heard the rumors, too, but didn't believe them until the surprise 4 p.m. meeting Monday.
"I had a heard a rumor that I could believe. There were all sorts of rumors going around," he said. "When it actually happened, it caught me off guard."
Harris, who met with the team after Frangoulis, wasn't surprised by the reaction.
"I think the big thing is John did an awful lot of things for us," said Harris. "He recruited a lot of numbers for us and his players are loyal."
From the Baker end, Frangoulis was praised for his efforts.
"Coach Frangoulis has made a lasting contribution to the university's program, on and off the playing field," said Baker President Daniel Lambert in a prepared statement. "He is a valued colleague who genuinely cares for his players and makes their welfare his highest priority."
A nation-wide search for a replacement has begun, and Harris said it's hoped a new coach will be in place by Jan. 5.
As for Saturday's game, Baker jumped to the 21-7 lead, much on the legs of standout running back Jon Reeves, who ran for 224 yards, including a 94-yard touchdown run that tied the longest-ever run in Baker history. Reeves also wrapped up the Heart of America Athletic Conference rushing title with 1,493 yards.
But, William Jewell rallied for the winning points in overtime and blocked Baker's extra-point try to seal the win.
Junior quarterback Blake Pearson of Valley Center gained 59 yards on just eight carries and junior fullback Gerrad Speer had 58 yards on seven carries, plus a 19-yard reception. Pearson had one of his best passing games of the year, completing seven of nine attempts for 87 yards.
The Wildcats had several seniors finish their career with outstanding games. Oliver Kurtz, a senior linebacker from Olathe, had nine solo tackles, a sack and 16 total stops in his biggest game of the year. Another senior linebacker, Mark Foland of Topeka, also had his biggest game of the year with 11 tackles. Defensive lineman James Reyes of Kansas City, Mo., added 10 tackles. For the first time this year, Baker's top seven tacklers were all seniors.