Fred Bouchard’s reign as Shawnee Mission East’s football coach ended before it began.
Bouchard, who coached Harrisonville to four state championships in the early 2000s, stepped down from the position Monday to become an assistant superintendent at a school district in Decatur, Ill. The SM East job was going to be the first head-coaching stint for the five-time state champion in two years.
Bouchard’s departure came exactly one week before the start of football practice in Kansas. And like the coach he was hired to replace last January, Bouchard cited “philosophical differences” with the Shawnee Mission School District administration for prompting his departure.
“It’s terrible timing,” Bouchard said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But it’s a great opportunity. Sometimes we’re not in charge of that. I thought about it a lot, prayed about it. There were just a lot of signs showing me this was the right move to make at this time.”
SM East selected Bouchard to replace Dustin Delaney, who compiled a 55-8 record in five seasons with two Kansas Class 6A state title game appearances. Delaney resigned after the 2017 season, citing concerns about the administration and is now coaching in Colorado.
Bouchard said he knew about Delaney’s issues with the Shawnee Mission administration. He spent his previous two years as an administrator in the North Kansas City School District, and he thought that experience would help him overcome those differences.
Bouchard wouldn’t comment on specific issues, but he said that by the end of the summer, he feared they might be insurmountable.
“Late May things started coming down the pike – changes that wouldn’t be beneficial to the Lancer football program,” Bouchard said. “In early July that divide felt like it was getting wider. And then this opportunity shows up.”
Bouchard said he had no problems at SM East or with athletic director Debbie Katzfey, who he said had been very supportive since his hiring. And even if he didn’t have issues with the district, he said the opportunity in Illinois would have still been too good to pass up.
“A couple of similar opportunities presented themselves in the spring,” Bouchard said. “I said no even to the opportunity to speak to somebody. That’s when I felt like we could bridge some of these differences and they’ll get worked out in a manner that would work for everybody.”
A football coach for more than two decades, Bouchard came into prominence at Harrisonville, where he compiled a 75-6 record in six seasons and won Missouri Class 3 state championships in 2003 and 2005-2007. He left Harrisonville to start the football program at Staley, where he led the Falcons to the 2011 Class 5 state title.
After stepping down from Staley in 2015, Bouchard remained in the North Kansas City School District as an administrator until he took the SM East job.
Justin Hoover has been selected to lead the SM East program until an interim coach is named. Hoover, Bishop Miege’s offensive coordinator and an assistant there since 2008, came to SM East last spring to be the offensive coordinator. Hoover also oversees Spin It Quarterback Academy in the offseason.
SM East holds its first practice on Monday. The Lancers open their season against Gardner Edgerton Aug. 31 at SM South. Up until last week, Bouchard was going to be on the sidelines with them.
While he’s truly excited about his new opportunity, walking away from a program and players he had already devoted much time and effort to hasn’t been easy.
“It is disappointing not being able to see it through,” Bouchard said. “That part of it, in spite of the really good opportunity and things that I have, that is something that will kind of gnaw at me.”