Jesse Owen

Jesse_Owen_Bonner_Springs_2014_09_05Eudora High Football Coach Jesse Owen (photo by Eudorareporter.com Photojournalist Julie Stewart)

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

Eudora High Head Football Coach Jesse Owen has resigned his position to become the head coach at Olathe East High School. Owen spent just one season as the Cardinal Head Coach having come from Olathe North High School where he was an assistant coach.

“This is a great place and great people,” Owen said in an exclusive interview. “But that is where my family is, my in-laws are there and this is a better situation for me and my family.”

Owen stated that he was contacted by the Olathe School District as to possible interest in becoming one of their head football coaches.

“I certainly didn’t plan on this when I came to Eudora eight months ago,” Owen said. “But you can’t control timing.  If I would have known this was going to happen, I never would have taken the job here.”

In his lone season as Eudora Head Coach, Owen compiled a 5-4 record, going 3-3 in the District.

The Olathe School District has two head coaching vacancies. Olathe North long time legendary coach and mentor to Owen, Gene Weir took an off-field position with the Kansas University football program in December. Olathe East Head Coach Jeff Meyers was fired after 29 years as Head Coach following Olathe East’s first non-winning season since 1999.

Eudora High will now have to look for it’s third new head coach in three years. Prior to Owen coming to EHS, Kevin Kopecky served for one season and resigned in March, 2014.  Attempts to reach Eudora High School Assistant Principal and Activities Director Kara Kimberlin about the vacancy were unsuccessful.

Owen said he plans on continuing as a P.E. instructor at EHS through the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year.

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Jesse OwenNew Eudora Head Coach Jesse Owen

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

In a 6-0 unanimous decision, the Eudora School Board hired Olathe North Assistant Coach Jesse Owen as their next Head Football Coach. Five of the board members were present and Board Member Joe Hurla participated in the meeting via phone.  Board Member Mark Chrislip was not in attendance.

Owen will replace Kevin Kopecky who coached a single season in Eudora and lead the team to a 5-4 season and missed the playoffs.

The move was made with some dissent by a group of parents and students who strongly supported current Assistant Coach Phil Katzenmeier.  Approximately 35 students and parents showed up to the board meeting to make known that they were in support of Katzenmeier for the job.

Added to the agenda just prior to the meeting, two students were allowed to present their position for hiring Katzenmeier as the head coach.  Sophomores Matthew Buchhorn and Trevor Neis each rose to support Katzenmeier’s promotion to the head job.

“I understand that there are times when it is the right thing to do to hire someone from out of district like when there are no other qualified personnel in the district to fill the position, but this is not the case” Buchhorn said. “Coach Katzenmeier has proved his ability and dedication to the school district and the players by his many coaching positions and in classrooms around the district.”

Neis also spoke favorably of Katzenmeier and his long association with the School District.

“Being at school for so many years, he (Katzenmeier) has created a bond between him and the player that is very important for a team,” Neis said. “Players know him and he knows the players.”

School Board President Eric Votaw did commend the students that rose to speak in favor of Katzenmeier and all those that reached out to the Board and District officials over the decision.  Votaw noted that “your voice had been heard.”

The Board then spent 45 minutes in executive session to wrestle with the issue. For comparison, a decision to hire an elementary music school instructor took all of five minutes in executive session.  The discussions that took place during these sessions are private and the public is not allowed to listen or know what precisely was said in the meetings. After the executive session, the board returned to the room to announce the hiring of Owen.

While Owen did not wish to comment on the record following the meeting, his current boss and Head Coach of the Olathe North High School team Gene Weir who also attended the meeting did talk about losing Owen to Eudora.

“This is a big loss for us,” Weir said. “I am happy to support our people and I think the Eudora School Board made a great decision in hiring Jesse.”

Eudora High School Principal G.A. Buie was excited to have Owen joining the EHS staff.

“He’s got a great passion for the kids and he has the desire to win a championship,” Buie told us.

On the topic of hiring Owen over Katzenmeier, Buie said that there was some stiff competition and many factors were weighed.

“Phil is an awesome individual, but this was a very competitive choice,” Buie said. “We had three or four Sunflower League coaches want this job and we were very fortunate to get Jesse.”  The Sunflower league is home to 12 6A schools from the Shawnee Mission, Olathe, Lawrence and Leavenworth School Districts.

Votaw in a one-on-one interview said he would not discuss the decision on one candidate over another, but stated that Owen came highly recommended.

“He was an outstanding player and coach, he’s passionate and he’s extremely well prepared. On top of that he’s a strong teacher as well,” Votaw said.

Votaw did not directly answer how much influence the showing by the students and parents had in the discussions by the board, but said he was excited to see the passion of the players, students and parents. Several board members all commented that they appreciated that the communication about the matter was always respectful and fair.

“I was about to say that we have a bunch of good kids here but that’s not true,” Board Member Mike Kelso said. “We have a bunch of good young adults here.”

We also talked to Neis following the decision by the board.

“I have nothing against the new coach. He seems like a real good coach and I am looking forward to working hard for him.  I am hoping he can lead us to a winning season.”

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