KU soccer coach Francis retires after 25 seasons

photo by: Missy Minear/Kansas Athletics

Head Coach Mark Francis of the Kansas Jayhawks during the game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Kansas Jayhawks at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence.

For the first time in 25 years, and just the fourth time in its history, the Kansas soccer program will have a new coach next year.

The Jayhawks’ longtime leader, Mark Francis, the longest-tenured coach in Big 12 Conference history, announced his retirement Tuesday evening, one day after Francis completed his final campaign at the helm.

All told, Francis accumulated an overall record of 262-200-49 since he arrived in Lawrence in 1999 following three years at South Alabama.

“We are grateful for Mark’s outstanding tenure and for his profound impact on Kansas Soccer,” KU athletic director Travis Goff said in a press release. “He has represented our University community in an exceptional manner, winning at a high level and supporting the graduation of countless outstanding Jayhawks. Because of the strong foundation he built, and the energy around women’s soccer in our region, the future of Kansas Soccer is very bright.”

The native of London, England, brought the Jayhawks to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, including their first in 2001 just six years after the program’s inaugural season. Most notably, the Jayhawks made three in four years between 2016 and 2019.

That 2019 season represented one of the high-water marks of Francis’ career as KU won its first Big 12 tournament and reached the third round of the NCAA’s.

“(It’s) been a privilege to be the leader of this program for the last 25 years,” Francis said. “I want to thank our current team and all of our alumni that I had the privilege to coach, my former and current assistant coaches and support staff, especially (Associate Head Coach) Kelly Miller who has been here with me the whole time.”

Miller, who has coached the Jayhawks’ goalkeepers, served as an assistant for Francis’ entire KU tenure.

The Jayhawks have not returned to the postseason since 2019. Francis said prior to this year that the squad was then hampered by the pandemic in 2020, its youth in 2021 and injuries in 2022. This season, the Jayhawks waited until their last match Monday night — at home against Kansas State — for their first Big 12 victory and finished 4-8-6 overall (1-7-2 Big 12). KU went just 5-19-4 in Big 12 play over Francis’ final three years.

Francis, a former Southern Methodist standout who had a lengthy career as a player, had a strong record of producing fellow professional players, including in recent seasons alumni like Rylan Childers, Kaela Hansen, Ceri Holland, Sophie Maierhofer, Katie McClure and Addisyn Merrick. In total, 22 alumni have gone pro during his tenure. Five of his players have earned a combined six United Soccer Coaches All-American honors, including a first-team nod for McClure in 2019.

Goff will now have the chance to hire his fourth coach since becoming KU’s AD, after Lance Leipold (football), Lindsay Kuhle (women’s golf) and Dan Fitzgerald (baseball).


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