Legendary coaches have graced Baker University
There have been several coaches that have made a huge impact on Baker University during its 150 years. They are:
When James Irick graduated from Baker University in 1948, he had had an impressive record as a college athlete: three years on the All-Conference football and basketball teams. However, his days as a Wildcat weren't over. After getting his master's degree, Irick came back eight years later to teach physical education and coach. Throughout his career, Irick served as head coach for Baker's football, basketball, track and tennis teams. In 1975, Irick took over as Baker's athletic director. Entering the Baker Hall of Fame in 1982 and the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1991, Irick is a truly legendary Wildcat.
When Karl Spear took over as athletic director in 1946, he had some big shoes to fill -- those of his predecessor and previous coach Emil Liston. However, Spear was up to the challenge, making many notable contributions to Baker athletics during his 35 years. The 1933 graduate had been named all-conference in football his final two seasons. He brought that knowledge of the game to find success as a coach of football, track and golf. From 1946 to 1962, Spear led the Wildcats to a number of national and conference honors with a record of 87-61-1. During the 1970s, Spear saw five of his players go professional. Spear continued to coach golf until his death in 1981.
When Emil Liston lettered in four sports at Baker, the 1913 graduate was forced to compete on a mud field and track. However, when he returned as athletic director in 1920, he solved that problem while helping students through the Great Depression. The construction of a new field and stadium was made into a program for students who needed assistance financing college, beginning in 1934. Improvements to the football stadium included the addition of the stone wall that lines Liston Stadium today, dedicated on Armistice Day in 1939 in remembrance of the 13 Baker alumni who lost their lives in World War I. As Baker's football and basketball coach during his 25 years at Baker, Liston was also instrumental in the creation of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (later the NAIA), providing smaller universities the opportunity to play in a national tournament. In 1975, Liston was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of
At the end of the 1994 football season, the Baker Wildcats had been ranked in the NAIA top 25 for a consecutive 128 weeks. However, the man who had led Baker to the most successful years of football would not return to continue that reign. Charlie Richard, who gained acclaim for his college career as quarterback at Baker rival William Jewell College, joined the Wildcats in 1980 as football coach. As head coach every year except 1991, when he sat out for health concerns, Richard led the Wildcats on an amazing ride -- 11 conference titles, 10 national appearances, five final four appearances and one national championship game. Though Richard was never able to win a national title, he had the highest winning percentage of any coach in NAIA history at 81 percent. With a record of 123-28-1, Richard was named Coach of the Year by the Heart of America Athletic Conference five times and by NAIA District 10 three times. In 2004, Richard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Phog Allen, known today as the father of coaching basketball, is well-known for his successful career at the University of Kansas, but he brought that same success to Baker University in his early days. Allen had played under coach and legendary basketball inventor James Naismith for two years before coaching during his final two years of
study. From 1907 to 1909, Allen coached at KU and Baker University, adding Haskell Institute to his list in 1908. During the 1908-1909 season, Allen led Baker to a winning record of 22-2. Between the three schools, his record was 75-10 for the year. After leaving to study osteopathy, Allen returned to KU in 1919, where he coached until
retiring in 1956, having won three national championships and a total of 746 games, making him the holder of the best coaching record upon his retirement.