By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Baseball helped direct Jim Frazier toward Missouri Southern.
“I was head football coach and baseball coach at Hastings (Neb.) College,” Frazier said. “We played a game at Dodge City (Community College), and Chuck Shelton (assistant football coach at Dodge City who later became head coach at Drake, Utah State and Pacific) told me there was a job open in Joplin, Mo. I didn’t know it was a four-year school. I knew they had a two-year school there.
“I went home and called Lon Farrell at Arkansas. Lon told me it was now a four-year school. He told me Joplin would be a great town and thought it could be a reasonably good job. So I applied.”
Frazier was hired for the position, and he signed his contract in the first week of May, 1971, shortly after his 30th birthday.
“Nobody knew anything about me,” Frazier said. Dr. (Leon) Billingsly (Missouri Southern president) had some people try to influence him to hire a couple of different people, but I don’t think he was going to be influenced.”
Frazier inherited a football program that won a total of six games in its first three years as a four-year school. His first Missouri Southern team went 4-6, but in 1972, the Lions posted a 12-0 record — including a 7-0 victory at UNLV during the regular season — and beat Doane College 24-6 and Northwestern (Iowa) 21-14 at Junge Field to capture the NAIA Division II national championship.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Frazier said. “The key thing was Southern was not respected in football. They didn’t take us serious, and by the time they figured out we were for real, it was too late.
“Secondly, we brought in Lydell (Williams) and Kerry (Anders) and Bernie Busken, and a number of offensive linemen joined us. Early on we were not that good, but we played hard. And we got good late.
“We played good defense. Defense was the key to it. They created a lot of turnovers. The staff did a good job. Tony Calwhite was defensive coordinator, Ed Wuch also was on the defensive side, Jim Hoots worked with the defensive line, Charlie Wade worked with the offensive backs and I had the offensive line. That was our staff.”
Frazier’s teams logged 12 winning seasons in his 15 years as head coach. He retired after the 1985 season with a 97-52-5 record.
In January 1977 Frazier also became Missouri Southern’s athletics director.
“No question the combination of the two jobs is tough,” Frazier said. “From that point, we went through some shaky times in football. We didn’t progress as well as we had been. For about three years there we were stumbling around. Our recruiting really fell off, but we got it back going again in the 1980s.”
Frazier remained the men’s athletics director until he retired in 2001 after 30 years at the school.
“It was good. I enjoyed it,” he said. “I met some great people, some fine young people. We had a lot of fun.”