Farewell Coach ‘Jeff’

It doesn’t seem right that Gary Jeffries’ tenure at Laurier ended the way it did.

Following nearly 40 years at the university, the last ten of which he spent as head football coach, Jeffries stepped down last week. His announcement came after two seasons in which it was clear his team was not the Laurier Golden Hawks of old.

This past season was particularly bad. A 3-5 record. A month without a touchdown. Three games that saw the purple and gold go without a point. And it was all capped off with an embarrassing 34-0 loss to Queen’s in the OUA quarterfinal last weekend.

For even the most casual observer of Laurier football, it was clear that a change was needed. And as it so often is in sports, that change came at head coach.

There are still a multitude of questions surrounding Jeffries’ departure. Was he forced to step down? Was he fired before he even got the chance to decide?

In most cases, these questions have come with anger from Jeffries’ supporters: mainly former players, coaches and long-time supporters of Laurier football. These people feel as though the university treated Jeffries — who is nothing short of an icon at WLU — unfairly. And if, as a number of rumours and anonymous sources have suggested, the coach was forced out, it’s difficult not to react with at least some anger.

Seeing a figure as entrenched as Jeffries depart, regardless of the circumstances, will always be jarring, so the adverse reactions of many in the Laurier community are natural. However, as unfortunate as the circumstances surrounding his resignation may have been, it is important to move beyond Jeffries’ departure from Laurier.

Remember him not as the coach who may have been unfairly forced out, but as the coach who brought Laurier its second Vanier Cup. Remember him as a man who seemed to genuinely care for his players. Remember him as a man who devoted over half his life to WLU as a player, as a coach and as a mentor.

Many who played for Jeffries have nothing but good things to say about him. Even a number of opposing players and coaches have come out with kind words about the former coach since his resignation.

It was clear Jeffries is highly respected and if his dealings with the media are any indication it is well deserved.

It was indeed time for a change and as difficult as it will be for some to see someone besides Jeffries on the Laurier sidelines next season, it is important not to dwell on the details of his departure. It is important to remember Jeffries for everything he gave to the program and not for two unfortunate years at the end of his tenure.

– The Cord Editorial Board

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