Football: Piché departure shows need to hire more coaches

Denis Piché took the high road and was prescriptive on Wednesday when he resigned from the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

The gist of his message was CIS football teams cannot subsist with only two full-time coaches and a cadre of volunteer assistants, many of whom somehow manage careers, families and amateur and high school coaching duties. The 3,500-hour-per-year figure that he consistently cited in interviews was not pulled from thin air. It might even be on the low side.

It is one thing to expect that out of a BCS-conference coach pulling down a cool couple million per season. Your Urban Meyers and Nick Sabans are paid like CEOs and are supported by staffs as large as those of some top politicians. Even they are susceptible to burnout, as Meyer showed us recently.

In Canada, a coach has to do all that, albeit under less of a glare from alumni, the media and university presidentsThey still get paid like a coach, not a top exec. It's decent money, high five figures to low six, but they earn every penny many times over.

If the entire history of sport is a history of money, then in Canada it's often about getting people to work for less, little or free, or having one person do three jobs. Some can do it, but that carries a lot of risks. Piché seemed to be making a point that there's only so much for one person to give, but the day when that may no longer be the case is within sight. It holds for other sports; you could read that into Paul James' departure from York men's soccer last month.

Hopefully the day is coming when all 26 (or more) football-playing schools will realize two full-time coaches as a holdover from the 1990s, the dark ages of CIS football. You want CIS to become more of a first choice for good athletes who good people, start by better rewarding mentors and leaders. There is more to it than add more full-time coaches and stir, but it is a start.

Les Gee Gees perdent leur architecte; Denis Piché, l'entraîneur-chef de l'équipe de football, démissionne (Martin Comtois, Le Droit; via Allez Les Bleus)
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  1. Be very careful what you wish for. I agree with the sentiment of this article. Unfortunately, with budgets under extreme strain, schools are cutting back, not adding to football budgets. Perhaps the Laval model is the future for all CIS football playing schools. If so, we can expect some schools to drop the sport.

  2. I have believed that Piche needed more full time help at Ottawa. They ask an awful lot of the HC there. I am sure other uni teams do as well. Laval has 5 full time coaches and they are the most successful team this pst decade.

    However anon 4:41 has a point as well. uOttawa is looking to cut $25 million from this years operating budget due to a deficit. So far there is no mention of cutting the varsity sports budget, but who knows if they will have to soon. I think uOttawa will some day have to seek outside help with a Laval- like football model.

  3. You have to admire the commitment so many of these guys make, as you say, away from the spotlight. Many coaches work that many hours simply because they love the game, the kids and the job.

    Finding a solution is tough though when there's not a lot of money in the university system for students, let alone athletes and coaches. Canada's so far behind the NCAA model it's not even funny.

    I don't know how they're expected to compete with Laval.

  4. At this point, nothing would be a shock with Ottawa U.

    The point, philosophically, is nothing is more expensive than scrimping on labour costs. That doesn't mean spend stupidly, but cheaping out is costly in the long run.

    @5:49: Good comments (you too, 4:41). What do we do, then? Do we abide a flawed state of affairs, on the premise we'll take an undersupported football team over no team?

    Piché high-roaded it on Wednesday, but it's not unknown there have been issues between coaches and Gélineau, who's had two hop over the side within the past 12 months. It's borderline innuendo to say that, but it's out there.

    Honestly, it's tough to watch a game at Frank Clair -- 1,000 people in a falling-down stadium -- without getting mad, that this is someone's idea of CIS football. Gee-Gees coaches and players rate so much better. It's hard to sit there knowing how the product is supported two hours away in Montreal with the Carabins, and five hours away in Ste. Foy with Laval.

    Like Mr. Mirtle says, though, if it becomes an either-or between academics and athletics, you know what's going to win out ... it all really does come back to Canada's reluctance to invest in education, which is a larger and problematic trend going back over two decades at least.

  5. Neate--if Ottawa goes ahead with Lansdowne Live they may not even have a falling down stadium to play in for 2011. It is likely to be unavailable due to the rebuilding of the place which would be in full swing in the fall of 2011.
    The plan to put an outdoor stadium at King Edward and Mann is dead in the water due to to the strong opposition from Sandy Hill folks. They are now looking at only a practice/intramural field on Mann Avenue next to an indoor facility like a gym building.
    They are back to exploring other options for the football team. The only options I can think of are:
    1) make a deal with Lansdowne Live to stay there beyond 2011. 2) Build an outdoor stadium on the Lees Avenue property they acquired about three years ago 3) drop football.

  6. ...nice post and comments...

    We're really amazed by the time coaches here in Qc are putting for the recruitment, often coaches spent their Saturday nights on galas and banquets of collegiate and even high school level, plus the regular expected scouting ...

    As for the Laval model, it fits well with Laval in Qc city, but for Sherby, with its football program own by a corporation, has shown till now (we will have a post on that later, maybe we could translate it for Neate) it's far from the Holy Grail...

  7. @Deux Fans: Please do!

  8. I was told today that if Lansdowne (Frank Clair) is not available to the Gee-Gees in 2011 due to construction, they are likey to play the 2011 season at the new Griffons' stadium in Gatineau, that the CEGEP is developing..

  9. Denis Piche left for the same reason deavero almost left and the hockey coach went to Carleton and a tone of other bad things associated with Gee-Gee sports: Athletic Director Luc Gelineau. As long as guys like him are around expect CIS sports to wallow in mediocrity

  10. @Anon 2:05 - The new Griffon's stadium is in fact the Université du Québec en Outaouais stadium, and there's no stands actually. They have a football field for Mont-Bleu High School where they can sit around 2k, and that's about it..

    For a picture of the just completed stadium:

  11. Deux fans. The City of Gatineau has actually put in a new artificial sports surface and upgraded the stands at what is known as the Stade Mont-Bleu near the high school which bears the same name off Cité-des-Jeunes. It has a capacity of about 2,000 and will be used for events during the Jeux du Québec summer games which will be held in Gatineau during the summer of 2010.

    The stade Mont-Bleu, not the seatless UQO, will be the new home of the Griffons in 2010.

    I believe that is the stadium that the Gee-Gees are looking to use for one year in 2011, but only if and when, Frank Clair should not be available. It was what I was told by a good source at uOttawa, but nothing is set in stone.

  12. Cantankerous2/13/2010 9:28 am

    I know during his tenure at Ottawa, Coach Piche had more than a few detractors.
    But I think he did, all things considered, a great job.
    It's easy to criticize but unless you've experienced what it's like to be a head coach
    at the university level, most people have no idea how difficult it is.
    Congratulations Denis, and bonne chance!

  13. @Anon 9:18 - Thanks for the precision, but the original UQO plan had 5000 seats, no?? And it seems recently they're prioritazing some kind of temporary roof, more than the original seating?

    The situation with a temporary head coach and all that instability at this important position will surely be a problem when trying to recruit prospects for the next year... not good for the football program...

  14. Yes, DF --too bad that UQO has dropped plans for seating anytime in the near future. I guess it is a bubble they are talking about. From what I read this UQo stadium will be used almost exclusively by soccer teams around the region in the foreseeable future.

    As for recruiting, hopefully most of it is done now for 2010 and that the recruits do not back out. They plan to have the new full time guy announced by December. For the teams sake it should be someone who knows how to recruit and is ready to hit the road immediately or it could be an off year recruiting wise.