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Kremser retirement from FIU is deemed final.

Karl Kremser and team
Left to right, Karl Kremser with Levi Coleman and David Hope at a 2006 match
-- Florida International University photo --
By Gary Davidson

(Tuesday, May 8, 2007) -- Karl Kremser, who led Florida International to two NCAA Division II championships and then Division I prominence, retired as coach of the Golden Panthers today. The move had been long-planned, but Kremser tried unsuccessfully to reverse his decision to step down.

"It was yesterday (FIU athletic director Pete Garcia) told me they were going in another direction," said Kremser, 62, who compiled a 324-171-41 (.640) in 27 years at the Miami, Fla., school. "It was not the way I wished things to end. I was really proud of what we did and I think we could have done something special."

In 2002, Kremser did not feel that optimism and he entered the Florida Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), a program that provided a five-year path to retirement. His perception of lack of support was borne out when FIU dropped the men's soccer program on January 16, 2003, an action that was reversed a day later after alumni protest.

"A number of years ago, I found myself in a situation where I didn't feel I could make things go forward, because (the program) was going nowhere," Kremser said, explaining his decision to enter the Florida DROP, as it is called.

Following that, Kremser said he developed a good relationship with then-director of athletics Rick Mello and the two discussed the coach's return after his retirement date, which is permissible. Kremser said Mello had made a commitment to add resources to the soccer program.

Kremser plans were interrupted when Garcia replaced Mello in October. "Unfortunately, (Kremser) should have thought about (not retiring) five years ago when he put in for the state DROP program," Garcia said. "He got all those benefits from the DROP program. My policy is you put in for the DROP program, you're retired."

Garcia agreed Kremser could have been rehired after a 30-day period of unemployment, but felt that was not in the best interests of FIU. "You're either retired or you're not," Garcia said. "We're a state school. You can't have your cake and eat it too. How do you explain it to the taxpayers?"

FIU will initiate a search for a new coach and assistant Munga Eketebi is expected to be a candidate for the job. The change comes at an awkward time for Garcia, with the most of the top available coaches having found jobs months ago.

The Panthers were 6-10-2 in 2006, 2-6 in Conference USA.

Whoever gets the FIU position will have big shoes to fill. The Panthers were known for an attractive style of play and produced numerous successful professional players. They included defenders Robin Fraser, Tyrone Marshall, Greg Vanney and Bobby Boswell, midfielder Steve Ralston and goalkeeper Jeff Cassar.

Boswell was the 2006 Major League Soccer "Defender of the Year." "I liked Coach Kremser a lot," Boswell said. "He was a coach, but also someone who wanted to bring out the good in guys. He wanted to make people better-rounded individuals. I used to go fishing with him. I still do when he's in town. I like him as a man and as a coach. He showed (his players) what we could do. (And) he had a great eye for talent."

In addition to the championships in 1982 and 1984, Kremser led FIU to two other Division II title matches. After elevation to Division I in 1987, the Golden Panthers advanced to the national championship game against St. John's in 1996, losing 4-1.

Including three years as coach at Davidson, Kremser's overall record is 337-210-41 (.610). He said he will consider new offers should they come, but for the immediate future, he plans rest and relaxation. That includes departing Wednesday for a week in Germany, the country in which he was born, before returning for a fishing trip to the Florida Keys with his son Kurt and granddaughter Elise.

"The greatest compliment we've ever had was when people would say they enjoyed watching us play," said Kremser, who was a football placekicker for University of Tennessee and the National Football League Miami Dolphins before becoming a soccer coach. "I think we've done all the things to make (soccer) the beautiful game."

Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor.

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