A hall of fame high school coach said he has been fired for “emotional mistreatment of athletes” and for failing to treat “all students with dignity and respect.”
Franz Boelter won seven state titles in 26 years as Faribault Bethlehem Academy’s volleyball coach and is the ninth-winningest boys’ basketball coach in state history. He retired as Faribault BA’s basketball coach in 2014, and the school fired him as volleyball coach Friday.
“I can’t get into it, but I felt in my mind, and the minds of those on our executive board, it was the right thing to do,” BA president Chuck Briscoe told the Star Tribune on Wednesday. “We have to do what’s right for kids in 2018.”
Boelter countered: “That’s what I’ve tried to do my whole career, do what’s right for kids. That’s what people did for me, and I’m trying to do the same thing back.”
Boelter, 66, requested an open hearing before the school’s board of directors, which is scheduled for Wednesday. He said last Friday was the first time in his tenure anyone at BA had mentioned the issues cited for removing him as volleyball coach.
Besides “emotional mistreatment” of players, Boelter said the reasons cited were a “lack of concern for all of the players that are part of the program” and “failure as a coach to live up to the mission of the school in treating all students with dignity and respect.”
Students at Faribault BA held up signs outside of the school earlier this week protesting Boelter’s firing.
“There has been an outpouring on both sides,” Briscoe said. “I’ve heard from people on both sides of the equation.”
Despite being dismissed as volleyball coach, Boelter still serves as the private school’s director of advancement, working with donors, but plans to retire from that position in June.
It would take a vote from BA’s full 15-member board of directors to overturn Briscoe’s decision and retain Boelter as volleyball coach.
“Certainly, anything is possible,” Briscoe said. “I can’t predict the future. If the board decided to make that decision, that’s their prerogative. I work for them.”
Board chair Jim Beckmann did not respond to a Star Tribune interview request but told KDHLradio.com, “We have complete trust and confidence in Dr. Briscoe to make the appropriate employment decisions for Bethlehem Academy.”
Payton Nutter is a freshman at Concordia (St. Paul) who played six seasons for Boelter ending in 2016, and she said she “never witnessed one issue of abuse — not even close.”
“He always held us accountable and pushed us, but that’s very different from abuse,” said Nutter, a Ms. Volleyball finalist in 2016.
Jessie Mathews played five seasons for Boelter, ending in 2012, and won three state championships. She also said she never saw him being abusive.
“Franz is a very demanding coach,” she said. “He expects you to work hard. Those are the things that make you stronger.”
Boelter went 603-165 as BA’s volleyball coach, leading the Cardinals to 12 first- or second-place finishes at the Class 1A state tournament since 2002. He was elected to the Minnesota High School Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008 and the state’s Boys’ Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012.
Fellow hall of famer Walt Weaver, who coached Apple Valley volleyball for over 30 years, said he expects the Wednesday meeting to draw an outpouring of public support.
“Without question, he is a major icon in Minnesota high school sports,” Weaver said. “I run a national coaches clinic in Apple Valley every spring, and I’ve had Franz speak at it 10-12 times. His is always one of the most attended sessions because people trust the way he handles his players.”