January 26, 2014-Larry Kramer, the second winningest coach in Emporia State football history, passed away Saturday at the age of 71. Kramer was the coach of the Hornets during one of the greatest runs of football success in school history from 1983-1994. A native of Austin, Minn., Kramer was named NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1989 when he led Emporia State to the NAIA National Championship game.
"To me Coach Kramer really the coach who put Emporia State football on the map," said current Hornet head coach Garin Higgins, who played for Kramer from 1987-90. "Everyone who played for Coach Kramer has a special bond. Whatever job we may have, he gave us something that we could use in our lives."
Emporia State had recorded nine straight losing seasons before he arrived in 1983. The streak would reach 11 years before his Hornets began a run of seven straight winning seasons and eight straight years with at least a .500 record. That is the longest string of winning seasons in Emporia State's 116 year history of playing intercollegiate football.
His 1985 squad opened the season 4-0 including a 41-9 win over Pittsburg State at Welch Stadium. The next year the Hornets just missed the playoffs, going 8-2, before making the first trip to the NAIA Playoffs in school history in 1987. Emporia State made it back to back trips to the playoffs after opening up the 1988 season with eight straight wins. He took the Hornets to the National Championship Game in 1989, going 11-2 with eight of the 13 games on the road. The only losses that year were at Central Arkansas and at Carson Newman in the national title game. The Hornets followed up their national championship appearance with a 6-4 record playing as an independent in 1990. Emporia State opened their first year of play in the MIAA with five straight wins in 1991 before finishing 5-5. The Hornets then went 7-3 and were ranked as high as #12 in the nation in the 1992 season.
During his career at Emporia State, Kramer had players earn either first or second-team All-American honors 14 times. He saw seven of his former players join him in the ESU Athletics Hall of Honor - David Tryon, Clifford Hodrick, Kelly Goodburn, Matt Koehler, Alvester Bobby, Wade LeDuc, and Leon Lett - in addition to the 1989 National Runner-up team. He had three players enjoy productive NFL careers in Lett, Goodburn and John Davis with Lett and Goodburn winning Super Bowl Championships.
Kramer came to Emporia State from Austin College where he compiled a record of 50-43-6 from 1973-82. His 50 wins are still the second highest win total of any head football coach in Austin College history. During the 1981 season, Kramer led the Kangaroos to a record of 11-1-1 and a share of the NAIA National Championship. He was named the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year in both 1979 and 1981. He was 35-7-1 in his final four years at Austin College before coming to Emporia State.
Over the course of his 28 year career as a head coach, Kramer amassed a record of 127-120-6, and finished out his career as an assistant coach working with the offensive line under Bill Snyder at Kansas State from 1995-1997. Snyder had previously served as an assistant to Kramer at Austin College in 1974 and 1975.
In addition to his outstanding coaching career, Kramer was a standout football player at the University of Nebraska, where he played left tackle. The 1963 squad led the nation in rushing and propelled Kramer to pre-season All-America status. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts prior to his senior season at Nebraska, and later signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2003, Austin College honored Kramer as the seventh recipient of the prestigious Coach Joe Spencer Award for Meritorious Service and Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his outstanding achievements both on and off the field.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, February 1 at 1:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Emporia with the funeral to follow at 2:00 p.m. There will be a celebration of life immediately following the funeral with the venue to be announced within the next few days. The family and those close to Coach Kramer would like to keep the dress informal. The family would like for attendees to wear our Emporia State colors - jerseys, shirts, sweat shirts - to honor the time Coach Kramer spent at Emporia State.