The Manchester High School Athletic Hall of Fame was established in 1971 to keep alive the memories of popular football coach C.L. “Swede” Olsson. Eighteen years later, the man hired by Olsson as his successor, Jim France, was named co-patron of the institution. Here is some background about these two men:
Swede Olsson was a graduate of Akron ’s Central High School and All-American lineman at Mercer College . He played five seasons for the NFL’s Boston Yanks and Washington Redskins, earning All-Pro honors at guard in 1938. In 1945, he took over the Manchester football program which had begun in ’41, and coached the Panthers for the next quarter-century, compiling a record of 128-61. Olsson’s teams captured Suburban League titles in 1952, 1956, 1957, and 1963. Respected and admired by his peers, Olsson won the Beacon Journal Touchdown Club Coach of the Year award in 1957, and was elected to the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame the following year. Swede retired from coaching in 1970 and was named Athletic Director in ’71. He died in July 1972…a Panther legend who will never be forgotten.
Jim France is a graduate of Springfield High School —where he was an outstanding three-sport athlete—and The University of Akron. An ex-Marine, he became Manchester ’s football coach in ’71 and (except for the ’85 season) has remained in that role ever since. Coach France has the unique distinction of also serving as MHS principal since 1985. His many accomplishments include:
* A record of 301-81-3 (thru ’06), placing France among Ohio ’s Top 10 all-time winningest football coaches
* Current ranking as Ohio's winningest active football coach
* PAC-7 championships in 15 out of 17 seasons, with a string of 10 straight seasons without a league loss
* 15 consecutive playoff appearances, including a state runner-up title in ‘97
* Summit County and Northeastern Inland Region Coach of the Year honors in 1989, 1992 and 1997
* Associated Press Div. IV State Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1997
* Induction into the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004
* Induction into The University of Akron Athletic Hall of Fame, as the 1999 Mike Krino Varsity “A” Achievement Award winner
* 1998 recipient of the William Falor Career Achievement Award, presented by the Dapper Dan Club of Akron
Perhaps the crowning achievement to date of Jim France’s career at Manchester was his 1990 selection by the Beacon Journal as the Caraboolad Coach of the Year. The annual award goes to one area coach “who touches and changes lives.” Jim France has done this for hundreds of fortunate Panther players.
In 1971, five “Charter Members” were selected for the Manchester Hall of Fame induction. Since then, between two and four former Panther athletes have been added to the Hall each year, in addition to the more than 30 “honorary” members.
Hall of Fame nomination forms and guidelines can be obtained from the high school athletic office. Honoree finalists are chosen in late spring, and the annual induction ceremony is held during halftime of the first home football game each fall.