Football: Walters steps down

The University of Guelph announced this morning that Kyle Walters will be stepping down as their head football coach (thanks to Jaime Stein for the tip).

The press release says Walters "will be parting ways with the Gryphons to focus on pursuing coaching ventures elsewhere at the professional level."

Mike Treadgold, the sports and health editor of The Ontarion (Guelph's student newspaper), tweeted this morning that a source informed him Walters is off to Winnipeg to become the special teams coordinator with the CFL's Blue Bombers, and also mentioned that rumour on his blog. It isn't completely confirmed yet, but that certainly sounds plausible given both the Bombers' coaching turnover and Walters' apparent desire to seek opportunities at the professional level.

Gryphons great Michael O'Shea has joined the Toronto Argonauts' defensive staff, so that is also a possibility to keep in mind. Walters has a young family. Working in Toronto would prevent having to relocate.

Guelph will miss Walters. He was coach for four years (13-18-1 record), but the team certainly seemed to be on the rise recently. The Gryphons made the OUA playoffs for the last three seasons and went to the final in 2007. Guelph slumped to a 3-5 record this year, but still clinched the last playoff spot and had last-second losses to Queen's and Western.

Walters might have had a difficult time replacing some of his star veterans, including the five players attending the CFL's evaluation camp and quarterback Justin Dunk. Still, at least from this perspective, Guelph seemed to be an up-and-coming program. It will be interesting to see if they can continue that momentum with a new coach.

The larger issue here, as I covered with Paul James' departure from York and this site discussed with Denis Piché leaving Ottawa, is if CIS programs are doing enough to retain elite coaches.

Informed sources (i.e., most certainly not the Guelph Mercury sports editor, who failed to publish a single article about Walters' contract situation) say Guelph athletic director Tom Kendall declined to go more than year to year with the coach's deal.

One may think Walters wanted a sense his alma mater was committed to him long-term. He did lift a program from the OUA's second tier to being close to the first tier.

There has been progress on that front recently, with more schools establishing full-time coaching positions, but many CIS coaches still have to split their coaching duties with another job (whether internal or external to their university). Even the full-time coaches generally aren't paid a lot, considering the massive amounts of work they have to do.

Football in particular is a huge challenge for coaches, given the amount of athletes involved and the massive amounts of work required. Having a successful program is not just about the head coach, it's also about putting a committed group of coordinators and assistants together to support him.

Investing in the coaching positions is one of the smartest moves a university can make in my mind. It will be interesting to see who the Gryphons tab as their new coach. In any case, with both Walters and Piche gone, the OUA football landscape will be quite different next season.

(Cross-posted to Sporting Madness)
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  1. Smart move on Kendall's part. It is clear that Walters wasn't going to be successful. I think Kendall is learning from Windsor.... don't extend a losing coach for another 5 years!

  2. Not sure how its clear he wasn't going to be successful especially given that his recruiting efforts are only starting to come to fruition this past season and the upcoming one. Guelph had a lot of potential under Walters and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. They'll need a teacher type of coach with the amount of new starters coming in this season alone.

  3. Agreed. I thought Walters was doing a good job of turning Guelph into a solid program. Wins and losses aren't everything. The replacement will be interesting to see.

  4. if this comes as a shock, it's only because the sports editor at the Guelph Mercury failed to do his journalistic due diligence.

    Walters' contract situation was not unknown. Instead, the Merc pwned itself on this story.

  5. Successful? 13-18 in his 4 years. Regressed this year to 3-5. What more evidence do you need? The 4th year should winning....not losing.

  6. It's about more than just the W-L record. Guelph was consistently an interesting team under Walters and a dangerous one. Looked to me like they were making progress.

  7. Making a winning program is a multi step process, especially coming from where Guelph started under Walters. The year they went to the Yates they were projected as one of the worst teams in Canada. They didn't quite catch lighting in a bottle again like they did in '07 but it was a step. Before you can be one of the OUA powerhouses you have to install a culture of competitiveness before you can become a winning program.

    Example: in his first 7 years at Queen's Pat Sheahan was only 5 games above .500. The first couple years were horrendous compared to Walters at Guelph, but when you stick with a philosophy it pays off; in that case it took 9 years for their prize. Guelph had a chance of winning every single game this season except for their game against Ottawa where they were just flat, and moving forward they appeared very comfortable with their recruiting classes. Regardless of the W-L record, Guelph was going in the right direction under Walters and it will be interesting to see what happens now.

    I think there is no need to state the categorical difference between Morencie's Windsor resume and Walters' Guelph one. It's one thing to reward mediocrity with 5 years, but perhaps for Guelph not to go beyond a year-to-year deal with Walters is a little to far on the cynical side of the spectrum.

  8. Both the WIndsor and Guelph football programs should not be mentioned in the same sentence period...unless it is decribing the butt-kicking Guelph is handing the Lancers.

    If Kyle wanted more than a year-to-year deal, then why would'nt Tom Kendall give it to him? After all, Guelph did host a Yates Cup 2 years ago, and they were on the verge of bringing in some key recruits this year.

    If it came down to wins and losses, then why is it that the boys and girls basketball teams coaches get security in their contracts? What have they done recently otehr than stinking up the basement of the OUA?

    Something smells up in Moo U and it ain't the manure!