Jeffries resigns as head coach

(Photo by Elli Garlin)

Gary Jeffries can still remember it clearly.

With 19 seconds left, a 32-yard field goal stood between the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team and the 2005 Vanier Cup. Fourth-year kicker Brian Devlin just needed to find the middle of the goal posts to put the Hawks ahead one point over the Saskatchewan Huskies. And he did.

“Without question, the Vanier Cup and the accent to that point,” said Jeffries, who was the head coach of the Vanier Cup team, of his memorable experiences at WLU.

“We had a wonderful playoff win our first year down in Queen’s that ascended to the Yates Cup. And then the next year, another perfect season and off to Laval to play [them] in the national semi-final.”

Last Thursday, Laurier’s department of athletics and recreation announced that Jeffries had stepped down from his role as head coach and manager of the football program.

Jeffries has been at Laurier since being a student in 1970, when he played for the Hawks’ football team for two years. He went on to coach both the men’s and women’s basketball teams before his tenure with the football team, starting as a defensive coordinator in 1994, a position he held for 17 years. In 2003, Jeffries took over as head coach of the football program.

Speculations surrounding Jeffries’ state with the team began to rise after the 2012 installment of the Golden Hawks posted a record of 3-5 and were ousted in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinal against Queen’s 34-0.

The team was shut out three times in the same season, and failed to score a touchdown in the month of October.

Jeffries reflected on the fall of the team’s success since the 2005 Vanier Cup win, saying the team became younger and the calibre of competition wasn’t the same.

“I think that most teams go through something like that, a period like that to get back to where they want to be,” he said.

Throughout his time as head coach, Jeffries posted an overall record of 69-31 and coached over 1,000 athletes, including stars like Ryan Pyear, Andrew Agro, Dillon Heap and Shamawd Chambers.

“Coach Jeffries was a great guy,” said second-year defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo. “He was certainly one of the main reasons why I came to Laurier and it’s going to be tough seeing him go and continue the next season without him.”

Peter Baxter, director of athletics and recreation also touched on Jeffries’ time at Laurier, saying that he left a lasting legacy on the football program and school.

“I know that Gary Jeffries has made a difference in the lives of a lot of people,” he said last Thursday.

Jeffries reflected on his players, giving them credit for the dedication they put towards the football program.

“I don’t know if everyone realizes how much they give up and how much hard work and dedication it takes to be involved and play the game at a high level and I’m certainly thankful to all of them and all they gave to Laurier and our football community,” he said.

Jeffries said he isn’t sure what is next in his life but that the 66-year old is certainly not going to give up everything.

“The only thing I can tell you is I won’t be sitting at home on a hammock,” he said. “There’s still some life left, so we’ll see.”

After Jeffries announced his retirement from the Laurier team last Thursday, Baxter did not clarify whether or not Jeffries stepped down voluntarily, however, he did say that this was in the best interest of the program.

“I think Gary knew that the program needed renewal,” he said last Thursday. “You’ve got to respect the fact that this was a very tough season and Gary needed some time to reflect on things.”

Tuesday night, the department of athletics and recreation released a job posting for the position of manager of football operations and head coach.

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