Richard adds Hall of Fame to legacy
It's been nearly 10 years since Charlie Richard died, but the former football coach and athletic director is in no danger of being forgotten at Baker University.
Every day, Baker students use the weight room, fitness center and training room that comprise the Coach Charlie Richard Physical Education Facility. A multi-million dollar renovation project that improves facilities for baseball, football, soccer, softball and track is taking place at the Charlie Richard Outdoor Sports Complex.
And, most recently, Richard took his place among the all-time greats in the national College Football Hall of Fame at an enshrinement festival Saturday in South Bend, Ind. The university will commemorate the occasion with Charlie Richard Day on Oct. 23, preceded by a week of events for students.
"It's good for students to know that they are part of a program that is getting national recognition," said athletic director Dan Harris, who was an assistant coach to Richard for more than 10 years. "This is something the whole campus should be proud of and feel a part of."
Nearly 40 people were in the Baker party at the enshrinement, including Keith Hackett, who was instrumental in Richard's selection. Hackett coached with Richard at Baker in the early 1980s and is now an assistant athletic director at the University of Nevada in Reno. He said Richard had all of the credentials necessary for enshrinement, but it took persistence by those who knew him to convince the selection committee.
"Charlie did all the work, we just needed to let people know what kind of person he was," Hackett said.
When Richard died of a heart attack on Dec. 13, 1994, he led all other NAIA football coaches in wins. He had won 123 games in 14 years, more than any other Baker coach, and led his Wildcats to the NAIA championship game.
But more importantly, he cared for his athletes and brought them together.
"The secret to coaching is to integrate kids so they feel they're in a family-type situation, and that's when you have your great teams," Richard told the Topeka Capital-Journal in 1992. "We've always had kids who believe the team is the most important thing and have sacrificed to make the team go."
Nick Harris, Baldwin City, played football for Richard and went on to coach high school football.
"He was a good man," Harris said of Richard. "He taught me a lot not only about football but how to treat people, about loyalty."
His dedication to his team was never more apparent than in 1987, when he put his players before his own health. A history of heart problems culminated in a heart attack, requiring quadruple bypass surgery. Richard was back to coaching the Wildcats in less than a month, with a nurse monitoring his blood pressure during games.
"The players have worked so hard. I feel if I can help them, I owe it them to be there," Richard told USA Today in 1987.
Though he had numerous opportunities to coach at bigger schools, Richard never left Baker.
"Heck, I love it here," Richard told the Lawrence Journal-World in 1993. "I think the people are great. I think the athletes we get here, the student body we get here, are great people."
His athletes loved him back.
"Being away from home, he was like my father," said Robert Villafranca, an All-American defensive back for Richard in 1991. "I would go to him for problems on and off the field. He touched everyone's lives, whether you're a freshman or you've been here five years."
Dean Vogelaar played football for Richard at Odessa High School in Missouri and eventually became vice president for public relations for the Kansas City Royals. Richard had an enormous impact on his life.
"(Richard) and my mother were probably the biggest influences in my life," Vogelaar said.
Joel Thornton remembers Richard as a coach willing to gamble on a 5-foot-4 receiver from San Diego, and Thornton was grateful.
"If I was doing it for coach, I wanted to do it right," Thornton said. "Not too many people believed in me like he did."
The university is planning several events for students, including a movie night, sports trivia night, tailgate, fan fest, powder puff football game and events before and during the football game on Oct. 23.
What others are saying about coach Richard
"He wasn't the type of coach to jump down your throat ... He could do that just by looking at you." - Jeremy Samples
"You knew how hard he worked for us and you could just look at him and it would motivate you." -- Raymond Torry
"He liked to help people. He liked to see a kid come in and have success and then go on and have success after college. He helped all of us get jobs." -- Bill Miller
"He's the finest gentleman in coaching I ever met. He was unwaveringly fair. He knew the officials were out to do a job and never let the kids or assistants get in the way of the job we had to do. Our crew loved him." -- Heart of America Conference game official Frank Smysor
"I never met a coach that was more willing to do anything for his players." -- Merle Venable, former coach at Baldwin High
"Despite all the negative things reported about sports, coaches should be some of the most respected people on this earth -- especially a coach like Charlie Richard." -- Jason Whitlock, columnist