Bonner Springs retains football coach for 2007 season
Monday night, while most of the nation's football fans had their eyes and minds fixated on college football's national championship game between Ohio State and Florida, one man in Bonner Springs had his mind on high school football.
That man was Bonner Springs High School football coach Lew Kasselman and late Monday night he learned that he would be returning to the sidelines for the 2007 season.
The decision by school administrators to retain Kasselman for next season was made official when the recommendation to approve a list of fall coaches for the 2007 season passed without a peep at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville School Board. BSHS athletic director Garold Baker simply read a list of names and the board quickly moved to approve the recommendations.
Word reached Kasselman via telephone shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Monday night, and almost immediately, Kasselman felt great relief.
"It felt like a little weight had been lifted off my shoulders," the 11-year BSHS coaching veteran said. "It's definitely a relief to not have that unknown hanging over my head anymore. Now we can get down to business and start focusing on winning football games."
Tuesday was like any other day for Kasselman. He woke up early, arrived at school same time he always does and went through his normal routine of classes and conversation. By 2 p.m., his scholastic duties were done and Kasselman was hunkered down in his office, hovering over a pile of papers with X's and O's scribbled onto them.
"I'm excited, my coaches are excited and we're ready to get to work," Kasselman said. "This didn't just affect me; it affected a lot of other people, too. Everybody was kind of in limbo wondering what was going to happen. I'm just happy the whole thing is behind us now and we can move forward from here."
The reason for the speculation came when the school district included in Kasselman's 2006 contract a clause that said the coach must win five games during the '06 season of face the possibility of termination at the end of the year. The Braves struggled with consistency during the season and finished with a 3-6 record. Despite not reaching the magic win total, the decision about what to do with Kasselman became cloudy when the coach received an incredible amount of support from the community.
"When you go through something like this, you realize there are a lot more people behind you than you think," Kasselman said.
The school's evaluation process began shortly after the season ended and dragged on through Thanksgiving and then into the winter break. Kasselman met with school administrators several times throughout the three months that followed the season, and after each meeting he felt better about his chances of coming back.
"I thought it would work out," he said. "After our last game, I started working on stuff for next year as if I was coming back."
Monday's decision proved that Kasselman's past three months were time well spent. The terms of his return were not made available, but Kasselman did say there was a short list of conditions school administrators asked him to emphasize during the upcoming season. In addition, no magic number of wins was attached to his return and that was just fine with Kasselman.
"I always look at it like we can win every game," Kasselman said. "But in order to do that we have to take it one game at a time. We have to raise the bar and we have to get the kids to take some ownership in this program. With the number of returners and the experience we have coming back, I expect our team to be very, very competitive next year."
Consider that team to be jump-started by the news of their coach's return.
"I'm glad coach is coming back and I'm excited for a new season and a new start and I look forward to being one of the best teams in the Kaw Valley League," BSHS junior tailback LT Lee said. "He's like a father to us. He knows football and he also knows us."
Lee said he thought the entire situation rattled last year's team and he looks forward to a senior season without a magic number hanging over his head.
"I think it was a distraction," Lee said. "There was so much pressure and we all knew we had to win five games. It'll be nice not to have and that should make us even more dangerous."
The 2007 football season will be one of big changes at Bonner Springs High School. But the casual observer won't be able to see most of the changes. Kasselman still plans to run the same basic offensive and defensive schemes. He still plans to give the ball to Jock as many times as possible and he still plans to inspire his team to be a tough-nosed, defense-oriented football team that nobody enjoys playing.
"As a coach, you have to do what you believe in," Kasselman said. "If you've had success with that, you just have to continue to work hard and give it everything you've got. I can't wait to get started again. I wish we could play next week."