⚽️ Kansas Head Coach Mark Francis Retires After 25 Seasons
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Mark Francis, the winningest and longest tenured head coach in Kansas soccer history, announced his retirement on Tuesday after 25 seasons and more than 500 games leading the Jayhawks. Francis led Kansas to 262 victories, nine NCAA Tournament appearances, two Sweet 16s, one Big 12 regular-season title and one Big 12 Tournament Championship.
Francis finished his illustrious career at Kansas with a record of 262-200-49 (.561).
“We are grateful for Mark’s outstanding tenure and for his profound impact on Kansas Soccer,” Kansas Director of Athletics Travis Goff said. “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.”
Francis was named the third head soccer coach in the program’s history on December 22, 1998. In his first season at KU in 1999, Francis led the team to a school record with eight wins and the program’s first-ever ranking on Oct. 11, 1999. Over the course of his 25-year career at Kansas, Francis posted 16 winning seasons, including an 18-5 mark in 2004 and a 17-5-3 record in 2019, leading both of those teams to a Big 12 title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. In 2020, the program achieved its highest ranking ever at No. 5 by the United Soccer Coaches.
“Its 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.”
Francis was assisted all 25 seasons by Miller. Miller served as the goalkeepers coach and mentored several standout Jayhawks, including Sarah Peters, Julie Hanley, Kat Liebetrau and Kaitlyn Stroud. Miller, who was a part of all nine NCAA Tournament appearances, also trained two-time All-American Holly Gault, NWSL player Estelle Johnson and Caroline Van Slambrouck who has played in the NWSL, Sweden, Iceland and Spain.
In his time at Kansas, Francis coached 75 all-conference selections, 31 All-Central Region recipients, five All-Americans, four freshman All-Americans, two Big 12 Defenders of the Year, one Big 12 Rookie of the Year, 263 academic all-conference honorees, four academic All-Americans and has seen 22 Jayhawks go on to play professional soccer, including five NWSL draft picks.
Francis guided KU to 15 double-digit win seasons in his tenure. The 2004 Big 12 Coach of the Year, Francis coached in more than 230 Big 12 soccer games, which is the most of any coach in the conference’s history. His 25 years in the Big 12 Conference marked the longest tenured head coach in league history as well.
Francis, who received Central Region Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2004, has been coaching soccer for 33 seasons, between the Division I, junior college, USISL and high school levels, with 28 of those years coming at the Division I level. Prior to his 25 seasons at Kansas, Francis was the head coach at South Alabama (1996-98); at the Mobile Revelers (1997); at Brookhaven College (1995); and got his start at Highland Park (Texas) High School (1991-95). His Division I record finishes at 295-225-50 (.561).
The London, England, native and 1987 graduate of SMU was a three-time All-American selection for the Mustangs. As a senior, he was named SMU’s Male Athlete of the Year, the Dallas All-Sports Association College Athlete of the Year and was selected to Soccer America’s All-College MVP Team. In addition, he was a two-time nominee for the Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding soccer player.
A national search for the next leader of Kansas soccer will begin immediately.