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.
Guelph may miss Walters. He was only the head coach for four years and only put up a 13-18-1 record overall, but the team certainly seemed to be on the rise recently. They've made the OUA playoffs for the last three seasons and went all the way to the final in 2007. Guelph slumped to a 3-5 record this year, but still clinched the last playoff spot and gave the Yates Cup finalist Western Mustangs a tough game in the first round. 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 head coach.
The larger issue here, as I covered with Paul James' departure from York and Neate discussed with Denis Piché leaving Ottawa, is if CIS programs are doing enough to retain elite coaches. There's certainly been some encouraging 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. I don't know the details of Walters' contract with Guelph, but 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. That takes money, but investing in the coaching positions is one of the smartest moves a university can make in my mind, as coaching continuity is key to many successful programs. 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 may be quite different next season.
[Cross-posted to The CIS Blog]