The former Washington Husky saved the season at his alma mater when he stepped in at the last minute to coach. He plans to return next season to continue rebuilding the program.
He has won a national championship, set a host of school records and was selected in the NFL draft.
He has scored three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, was a consensus All-American, and has caught more passes than anyone in NFL Europe history
Former Husky receiver Mario Bailey is one of the more celebrated athletes in Seattle, and his list of accomplishments reads more like a scroll. But his greatest feat may be coaching the Franklin High football team to an 0-6 record this season.
Mainly because, without him, there wouldn’t have been a season at all.
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“It looked like my junior year was going to be my last year,” Franklin senior Ryan Asuncion said. “But God came in and gave us a coach.”
If you log on to maxpreps.com you’ll see that Franklin didn’t play its first game until Sept. 16 — two weeks after just about every other school. This is because the Quakers’ previous coach stepped aside for personal reasons just before the season, leaving the team with no one to steer the ship.
With no freshman or JV team — not to mention no wins since 2013 — the program was already tenuous. But to forfeit an entire season?
It was that close to happening.
Fortunately for Franklin, school principal Jennifer Wiley reached out to Bailey in early September to see if he would want to take over. And Bailey, a former Quaker himself, thought about what it would have been like if he were a senior forced to give up his final football season.
So he agreed to coach a 21-boy team that included several freshmen with no choice but to play varsity. It was gonna be rough. And the players couldn’t wait.
“It felt like a big chunk of me was gone for a second. I didn’t know what to do,” senior Jayvon Davis said. “But he saved the football team, point blank.”
Point blank is actually an appropriate way to describe the Quakers’ first game, as they fell to Rainier Beach, 48-0. But even amid the butt-kickings, the roster continued to grow.
Kids saw a coach who was consistent, structured and caring and decided they wanted to be a part of it. At one point, Franklin fielded 35 players.
Of course, when you take a job like Bailey’s, X’s and O’s are often the least of your coaching concerns. Sometimes, just making sure a kid shows up to practice on time is a struggle.
But talk to parents, and they’ll tell you Bailey is reaching their children even if the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it.
“I like his rapport with the kids. I like the way he does things,” said Rae Richardson, who has two sons on the team. “They know he means business, but it’s not in a negative way. I just hope he comes back.”
Good news, Rae. He’s coming back.
This was supposed to be a Band-Aid job in which Bailey came in and salvaged a season for the seniors. The 45-year-old already has a full-time gig as a youth outreach manager in Renton, and he does real estate on the side.
But at some point over this past month and a half, Bailey realized that he wants to keep this thing going. Franklin has had four head coaches in the past four years, and he knows if he wants the program to return to prominence, he has to return to the sideline.
“I don’t think it would be fair to anyone if I didn’t come back. We want this program to get back in order,” said Bailey, who also coached at Franklin from 2005 through 2007. “I tell the freshmen all the time — you guys gotta stick together. You remember these beatings that these teams are putting on you, but if you stick together, Franklin is going to be right back.”
This past Friday night might be one of those games these kids look back on. Trailing winless Chief Sealth 44-0, it looked as though the Quakers’ season was going to end on a particularly sour note. Then Bailey called a trick play in which Asuncion — the running back — chucked a 60-yard touchdown pass to Vatrevyon Garner with less than two minutes to play.
The Franklin sideline exploded. “We’re going to the Super Bowl!” shouted players.
Bailey couldn’t help but laugh.
When a coach takes over a team that gets outscored 257-56, at some point he’s going to wonder what he got himself into. But in one moment, Bailey got a distinct reminder of why he decided to come back.
After the game, with his senior season complete, Asuncion found himself crying. He knows he’s going to miss his teammates. He knows he’s going to miss the competition. He knows he’s going to miss the kind of camaraderie that only football can provide.
And to think, without Bailey — he may have missed all of it completely.