Mizzou soccer's Bryan Blitz at peace stepping away from program

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune

Bryan Blitz never wanted to walk away from the Missouri women's soccer program at a low point for the Tigers. 

When thoughts of hanging up his head-coaching whistle first entered his mind about three years ago, he couldn't depart with possible ruins ahead. 

Bryan Blitz

The Tigers were expected to be nationally ranked during the 2019 season, but plenty of attrition at goalkeeper demanded Blitz's attention. 

Since that "wacky" goalkeeper situation where the team's rostered netminders went down with meningitis and appendicitis — and Blitz had to use the club team's starter for Southeastern Conference matches — he slowly regained momentum for the program. 

After a 6-5-3 record in the 2020-21 season, ending with a 1-0 win over archrival Kansas on Saturday, Blitz knew his time had come to step aside

"I'm stepping away from head coaching at this point," Blitz said Monday afternoon. "As anybody in this profession will know, the toll of being in Division I ... I think the toll, that's why you don't see too many of us hanging around. It's seven-days-a-week, 24/7. And I think it's time for someone else to run it. So I'm definitely out of the head-coaching world. Never say never on any other thing, but I'm definitely going to spend so much time with my family with young adult children and my parents are in their 80s and I want to be able to spend time that I haven't been with (them). So never say never, but certainly for sure the head-coaching game is on to a younger person."

Blitz, who has been at the Tigers' helm since their inaugural season in 1996, posted a 254-216-39 record in 25 seasons along the Tiger sideline and a 299-260-47 mark in 30 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He spent his first five seasons at Butler, also as the Bulldogs' inaugural coach.

His 25-year head coaching tenure is the fifth-longest in the history of MU athletics, behind John “Hi” Simmons’ 35 years in baseball (1937-73), Norm Stewart’s 32 years in men’s basketball (1967-99), Rick McGuire’s 27-year tenure in men’s and women’s track and field (1983-2010) and Tom Botts’ 26 seasons leading men’s track and field (1946-72).

Two current Missouri head coaches have also been with the school for 20-plus years: Brian Smith, head wrestling coach for the last 23 years, and Stephanie Priesmeyer, who has coached MU women's golf since 2002.

"I was at peace with it ... the recruits that we have coming in, the kids that we have coming back, and it's going to be a very high-level job for somebody," Blitz said.

Once Blitz deduced that Missouri wouldn't be part of this spring's 48-team NCAA Tournament early Sunday morning, he already planned to have a frank discussion with his team about not advancing to the postseason.

He decided that was also the right time to inform his team that someone else would be their head coach in the fall. 

"Having been through that on my own as a college athlete — I was a junior in college when my coach took another job — there's so many different emotions for each different person," Blitz said of his team's reaction to his announcement. "So I just said, 'Hey, you can feel how you want to feel. Sad, angry, anything in between. And then, again, I'll be here until they hire somebody. I'm here to help you, I'll walk you through the process. Some of you might want to come see me today. Some, it might take you two weeks.'"

Blitz says he doesn't want to be part of the search for his replacement but that he has heard from several coaches with interest in the vacancy. 

Once his successor has transitioned into his office, Blitz doesn't have a grand plan for what's next, outside of spending time with family.

"I'm going to just take maybe a month to two months to just figure it out and see where that lies and talk to people who think, 'Hey, you could be good at this or you suck at this,'" Blitz said of his next steps. "... I just want to serve in some form or fashion. So honestly, I don't know what that journey is. There'll be some exploration to figure that out. But I love Columbia, love Mizzou. I just want to be able to find a path that I can serve humankind. To be fair, I don't know what that is."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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