Koch, 34, walks away from Howell’s top football spot as the winningest coach in the history of the program and leaves behind a legacy that elevated Howell to elite status as the premier program in St. Charles County and one of the top programs in Missouri Class 6 football.
“At the end of the day I have a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, and 3-year-old twins and they have sports and activities six days a week,” Koch said. “The job of being the head football coach at Francis Howell with a program of our caliber is an extremely time consuming responsibility, and over the last two years, ultimately I had to make the decision to spend time with my family and my biggest sounding boards were my oldest kids.”
Koch, a 1999 Howell alumnus, ends his tenure with a 72-33 record over nine seasons.
He met with staff Thursday and informed them of his decision; then came a Friday morning meeting with his players that was far from unemotional.
“I think a lot of people were shocked but the players understood,” Koch said. “My message to them [always] was obviously [that] we wanted to win football games but ultimately when I first I came here, I wanted to make better husbands, better fathers out of the boys I came in contact with and now it was time for me to put into practice what I preach.”
Francis Howell won four district titles during Koch’s time on the sidelines, and made it to the state semifinals for the first time in school history in 2011.
In 2012 the Vikings defeated Lafayette in the Class 6 semifinals before falling to Blue Springs South in the 2012 Class 6 Show Me Bowl state championship game.
Howell fell to Rockhurst in a heart breaker in the semifinals in 2014 and then last fall, the Vikings were bounced from the playoffs in the district championship round by 2015 Class 6 champion Blue Springs South.
Koch, who came to Howell after playing offensive line at the University of Illinois, instilled a tough, bruising and relentless persona into his teams – one that mirrors the coach’s own persona very closely.
Under Koch’s leadership, Howell rose to become one of the most visible and successful programs in the state.
The Vikings play home games in front of huge crowds each season and Howell has one of the most active booster clubs in the area. That enthusiasm has flourished in large part because of Koch’s energy and commitment to the program.
His demand for excellence on the field and in the classroom also helped make Howell one of the state’s model programs for well-rounded success.
“One thing that Coach Koch brought to the program was that it was much more than just football to him,” Howell athletic director Sean Erwin said. “It is a true program, the families are involved in the program, there’s a high level of commitment for the players on the field and off the field in the classroom and he wanted to the players to be successful beyond high school whether they are playing football or not.”
Koch has said he intends to remain at Howell teaching in the classroom for now and is going to be content to enjoy having his evenings free with his wife, Molly, and four kids.
“This is strictly stepping back from football and I will take this opportunity to spend more time with my wife and kids and be more involved in their activities,” Koch said.
That does not mean Koch will entirely be away from the program, however. He still plans to attend games and be vocal in his support of the Vikings.
“I told all the players I would be at the first game, just that I would not be there as their coach and I told the coaching staff I’ll be the guy yelling at all the horrific coaching,” Koch joked.
The search for Koch’s replacement has already begun in earnest, starting the week of Feb. 29.
“The program is in great shape and I think the right guy can come in and have an incredible amount of success,” Koch said.