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Thursday, July 5, 2007

M-SOCCER COACH FRANTZ INNOCENT RETIRES

Program leader in games coached steps down after serving 17 years

 

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Following a 17-year career at Eastern Connecticut State University as a part-time head men’s soccer coach, Frantz Innocent has retired.

Innocent steps down after having coached a program-record 325 matches between 1990 and 2006 and finishes second all-time in years of service and victories (126) among the program's head coaches. Only Eastern Hall of Fame coach and program founder Tom Nevers coached more seasons (18/1961-1978) or won more matches (153) than Innocent.

Born in Haiti and raised in Nyack, NY,  Innocent was named the program’s fourth head coach on March 14, 1990. He steps down after coaching 42.5 per cent of the program’s 765 matches in its 46-year history. He took over in Eastern’s second season in the Little East Conference and ended up coaching 109 of the program’s 114 regular-season conference matches.

In 17 seasons, 202 student-athletes earned a varsity letter under Innocent. Twenty-four of Innocent’s 28 four-year letterwinners have earned their degree (two of the four are completing requirements this fall), 29 have earned an ECSU/E-Club Scholar-Athlete Award, and three were named to the CoSIDA College Division Academic All-District Team. Innocent’s reign also featured three NSCAA All-Region and seven NEISL All-Star Game selections, 47 All-Little East Conference picks, and two conference Player-of-the-Year and two conference Rookie-of-the-Year selections. Two of Innocent’s former players were also recipients of the Francis E. Geissler Senior Male SportsPerson-of-the-Year Award, a prestigious award which recognizes the qualities of teamwork, dedication, leadership, integrity, and spirit.

“Frantz has been a tremendous asset to our athletic program,” praised Eastern Director of Athletics Dr. Joyce S. Wong. “To be a part-time coach and dedicate the time and energy that Frantz did is a testament to his commitment to his student-athletes. He did a great job maintaining stability in our men’s soccer program -- the retention and graduation rates of his student-athletes have been outstanding. We will miss him.”

Innocent was named conference Coach-of-the-Year three times, including back-to-back years in 1991 and 1992, as well as in 1996. Coming off a winless conference season in his first campaign of 1990 (0-3-2), Innocent led the Warriors to an unbeaten conference season (4-0-1) in 1991, and followed that up in 1992 with a 4-1-0 record in conference play.  The Warriors shared the conference regular-season crown in 1991 and won the title outright in 1992. In 1992, the Warriors went on to its only post-season berth under Innocent when they were selected to the ECAC New England Division III tournament. They lost a first-round match to Middlebury in that tournament.

Innocent was in charge of the program when it played its final match on the old Alumni Field on Oct. 31, 1990 and when it played its first match on Thomas Nevers Field (its current home) on Sept. 14, 1991.

Innocent, who compiled an overall record of 126-171-28 (50-49-10 in the conference) at Eastern, coached at Eastern under two athletic directors and two presidents. Only one other program – baseball – had only one coach during Innocent’s 17-year association. A total of 43 individuals served as head coaches in Eastern’s other 11 intercollegiate programs while Innocent was a member of the staff.

Adam Phaiah of Danielson played under Innocent for two seasons (2003 and 2004) after transferring to Eastern in the fall of 2003, and served under Innocent as a volunteer assistant coach last fall. He praised Innocent as a devoted coach and family man who always made academics and the welfare of his student-athletes a priority.

“Frantz had a big impact on Eastern soccer, above and beyond wins, losses and his record number of games coached,” noted Phaiah. “More importantly, he was a family man and a people person. No one ever had to be afraid to go up to him and talk to him about anything: soccer, family, social life, school… If a player ever had a problem academically, Frantz was always more than willing to make a phone call or go and see the teacher,” added Phaiah. “As long as you were willing to put forth the effort, academically, he was willing to put forth the effort on his part. His door was always open.”

Phaiah also pointed out Innocent’s passion for and knowledge of the game.

“Frantz loves the game,” said Phaiah. “He loves to teach the game. And he knows the game. I think that any player that played for him and any coach who worked with him, will tell you the same thing.”

Eastern finished 7-5-6 in 2006, losing only one match (2-1-4) in the conference and was eliminated from conference playoff contention on the final day of the season despite playing Rhode Island College to a 0-0 overtime draw on the road. The team featured five seniors.

Following a three-year varsity playing career at the University of Connecticut – where he earned Division I All-America status as both a junior and senior in 1973 and 1974 – Innocent began his coaching career in 1976 as head girls’ coach at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs. He later served as head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s soccer club team in 1978 and assistant coach with the Central Connecticut State University men’s team between 1982 and 1984. Innocent joined the Eastern staff after five seasons (1985-1989) as assistant women’s coach at his alma mater.

Innocent has four children – daughters Nicole, 21, and Danielle, 10, and sons Frantz, Jr., 9, and Ryswick, 7 – and resides in East Hartford with wife MaryAgnes.

A search is underway to name a new part-time head coach.

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