Jayhawk Insider: 250 reasons to celebrate a win
By Mitch George
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In a hard-fought match between two teams that each seem destined for the NCAA Tournament, the evident physicality of Kansas and TCU became a defining theme. Both teams possessed the ball equally throughout the game and passed the ball with similar efficiency. Not surprisingly, these factors resulted in a match decided in overtime. Although it didn’t take long for junior Eva Elíasdóttir to net the game-winning goal in the first overtime period, the score clinched a long-awaited milestone for head coach Mark Francis: 250 collegiate wins.
However impressive this achievement may seem, the even-mannered Francis saw the accomplishment in a different light.
“I’m more excited about the fact that we won and that we’re 4-1 in the Big 12 now,” said the 20th-season KU coach. “It’s cool; I’ve just been around for a long time. That’s what it really means. 250–I guess that is a lot.”
The win over TCU moved Francis’ all-time record against the Horned Frogs to 4-3-2. Coming into the matchup, Francis knew TCU would be a tough opponent, and it lived up to the test on the pitch.
“Whichever team lost that game, it was going to be a travesty,” Francis said. “It was just a great game of soccer … Anyone who was watching on TV saw a great representation of our conference.”
Francis has amassed an overall record of 250-184-34 as a Division I head coach, with 216 of those wins coming during his tenure at Kansas.
Elíasdóttir, the Iceland native who notched the golden goal with her forehead, offered her thoughts on what makes Francis a successful head coach.
“He has a good connection with everybody,” the junior defender said. “He’s able to know his players and that’s a very big strength of his. He knows what to say to keep [us] motivated. Before games he reads the atmosphere and he knows how to get us ready and pump us up.”
In addition to having a good understanding of his players, freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters noted that her head coach has also been profoundly supportive of her as a newcomer.
“He boosts my confidence a lot,” Peters said. “In goal, he’s always helping me out with whatever I need to fix throughout the game.”
Although the London-native calls himself the “front man” of the team, Francis hastily deflected much of his tenured success to his coaching staff. He particularly pointed to associate head coach Kelly Miller as a cornerstone of the program, having been a member of the staff for all 20 of Francis’ seasons in Lawrence.
“Kelly is very loyal, and he does a fantastic job,” Francis said. “We’re very fortunate to have him still be here. He’s had other opportunities to move on. Once we got [Rock Chalk Park], he and I both put in a lot of work and we think we can really get something done.”
Although his accomplishments continue to accumulate, Francis explained that his greatest source of pride is creating lasting relationships with his student-athletes.
“Working with the kids is great,” he said. “What’s really cool is when the girls come back once they’re alumni and you can see what they’re doing with their lives.”
Since joining the Jayhawks, Francis has averaged more than 10 wins per season, made seven NCAA Tournament appearances, and has received numerous coaching awards.
Given his performance to this point, his success leaves plenty of optimism to reach many more milestones in the future.
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