"Qualifiers"—players whose grades qualify them for Division I out of high school—can transfer with eligibility and aid after attending a junior college for just one academic year, provided they maintain a 2.0 GPA. In either case, a junior college is often the answer for the player who may not be academically or emotionally prepared for major-college pressures. "I won't bring in a 1.1 student," Foster says. "I look for a baseline of 1.8 or 1.9." He laughs. "Don't get me wrong. If Rozier had had a 1.1, I'd have brought him in anyway."
Recruiting at Coffeyville is a low-budget enterprise, but that hasn't unduly hampered Foster. "If Coach Foster decides he's got to have a great running back," says MacLeod, "he gets on the phone and three days later a Rosie Snipes comes rolling in." It isn't quite that easy, says Foster, but MacLeod has put his finger on the right instrument—the telephone. Foster's phone rings incessantly, and when he's doing the dialing he can tie up the lines for hours. "I've never brought an out-of-state player in for a visit," he says. "Other junior colleges do, but we just don't have the funds."
Jayhawk Conference rules limit a team to 10 out-of-state players on a 45-man roster, so Foster can ill afford a mistake when he calls long distance for help. Snipes, a non-qualifier, was laying sod along highways in Sarasota, Fla. and taking night classes toward a high school diploma when the phone rang at his house. Forsaking the sod for the prairie, Snipes went on to average 9.2 yards per carry for Coffeyville in 1982. Last season as a Florida State sophomore, he averaged 6.6.
The telephone also figured prominently in Rozier's coming to Coffeyville. "I never even saw Mike Rozier," says Foster. Heard about him, yes. Foster's grapevine identifies high school prospects who combine dazzling moves with moribund grades. Nebraska recruiters told Rozier about Coffeyville, and Foster made his pitch by phone. He remembers getting a call from Cornhusker coach Tom Osborne, who had signed Rozier to a letter of intent. Osborne told Foster he thought Rozier would make his grades, but if he didn't, fine—he could go to Coffeyville. "That's all there was to it," Foster says. Rozier wound up in Coffeyville, gained 1,157 yards in nine games, went to class, made some friends and left town. "I had my 2.5 when I went to Nebraska," says Rozier.
Foster had something, too: memories of a backfield that would be the envy of any big-college coach: Rozier, Gray, who later played at Purdue, and Greg Iseman, who went on to lead Montana in rushing and scoring. Foster insists that coaching such talent is the easiest part of his job. He counsels many of his players and supervises team study halls in the school library. "Coach always checked to make sure you went to class," says Pivonka. "We had several guys who didn't, but you looked up and they were gone." Says Foster, "They will be disciplined. There are only two things I can't deal with—stealing and drugs. I'm not a halfway house in those two areas."
He is a halfway house to four-year schools. Like buyers at a trade show, as many as 125 college coaches and assistants visit Coffeyville every fall. Says Foster, "L never go out and recruit the next class until I've got all of my kids placed who want to play football." He can rattle off a list of Division I schools currently fielding Coffeyville alums, and the geographical range is impressive: Utah, Kentucky, Tulsa, Purdue, Syracuse, Kansas State, Missouri, Indiana State, West Texas State, Texas-Arlington, Florida State, Louisville. Foster plays no favorites: Coffeyville isn't a pipeline to one or two programs.
Neither, he insists, is Coffeyville a place where jocks can "launder" their grades with phony credits and gut courses. "They're not taking basket-weaving," he says. "They're taking science, history and math."
Foster recalls only a couple of instances in which a major college tried to tamper with a Coffeyville player. The most notable involved—who else?—Rozier, who wavered on his commitment to Nebraska. "Pitt came here under the pretext of looking at other players," says Foster, "but they were really looking at Rozier. They asked to talk to him, and I said no, but they recruited him hard on his Christmas break. When I heard about it, I just sat down with him and said, 'Hey, it don't work that way, Mike.' "
The knowledge that a player is safe from poaching is important to coaches who steer players to Coffeyville. So, too, is the job Foster does with them. "When it comes to football, Dick Foster knows his job," says Rozier. "His practices were the hardest I've ever been through." Says Dickey, "Any major-college coach is happy letting Dick have a kid for a while. They know he'll come out fundamentally sound and disciplined. And he'll know what hard work is."
If he's a running back or a receiver, he'll also know what it is to cross the goal line—often. Foster's teams have averaged more than 34 points a game over his nine-year tenure, and seven of his backs have had 1,000-yard seasons. "I'm an offensive coach," Foster says. "Defensively I hire good coaches and stay away from it." In 1978 quarterback Mike Long passed for 23 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards, but usually Foster wins with his great running backs. In 1980 he went to the wishbone because he had Rozier and all those other gifted backs, "plus a quarterback who couldn't throw the ball across the room but was a very good runner." Foster still uses the wishbone, although he prefers more of a one-back offense. "The wishbone isn't fun to coach during the week," he says, "but it's fun to run on Saturday when you light up the scoreboard."