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Home > Articles > CIS Football > Time to end the drama about the new defensive co-ordinator at Queen's

Time to end the drama about the new defensive co-ordinator at Queen's

Posted: March 9th, 2014 @ 10:28pm

It was interesting last week that, at a time when Queen's football players, parents, fans and alumni - not to mention the greater Canadian university football community - were eagerly awaiting news of the Golden Gaels' new defensive co-ordinator, instead we got an announcement of who will be guest coaches at the team's spring camp.

This piques the collective curiosity in a couple of respects. One, Queen's isn't in the habit of announcing who its guest coaches will be; in fact it almost never publicly issues advance notice of spring camp. Two, while two of the men, kicking guru Don Sweet and defensive mentor Bob Vespaziani, have often helped with the Gaels, the other's name positively made one's eyeballs pop out.

That's because Greg Marshall - no, not the Western Greg Marshall; the well-travelled former CFL coach Greg Marshall - has long been thought to be one of the finalists for the vacant defensive co-ordinator's job.

Slipping his name into an otherwise benign off-season press release, bandied with no more fanfare than the names of two men who, while well respected, wouldn't raise an eyebrow with the news of their return, is like putting meat and potatoes on the plate, hoping people won't notice what the vegetable is.

The job posting for defensive co-ordinator ended Jan. 15. Pat Sheahan, the Gaels coach, said shortly thereafter he expected a decision by early February. It was widely thought the announcement would be made at the team's annual fundraising gala in Toronto Feb. 8, but when it wasn't forthcoming, there was much head scratching.

The room that night was full of people in a position to have some knowledge - members of the selection committee, people who knew people who had been interviewed, people who had been asked to be a reference, people who had been told something by someone "who knew." It was the kind of place where rumours sprout like weeds in a manure pile.

If it's no longer a secret when more than one person knows, you can imagine what it was like in a room of a few hundred or so well-connected football fanatics. If the old maxim three independent sources make it true, here's the kind of scenario that could be believed:

Evidently there were four finalists. Three days after the banquet, one man suspected to be part of that group, Mickey Donovan, got the head-coaching gig at Concordia. He'd been the DC at McGill.

Marshall is generally thought to be another on the short list. He got sacked last fall after being the DC with the Edmonton Eskimos, after being sacked as head coach by the Saskatchewan Roughriders after a 1-7 start to the 2011 season. Possible coincidence: At Regina, he was the coach of former Gael Rob Bagg, who just happened to be a member of the selection committee at Queen's.

Bob Mullen, a former defensive co-ordinator at Queen's, was another finalist. Evidently, he'd been approached by Sheahan and asked to apply. Last fall, he was in his first year as defensive co-ordinator at St. Francis Xavier. (Another coincidence: He just happened to show up at the last recruit-introduction news conference in the Athletics and Recreation Centre in January, in a suit, which, he tried to have people believe, he wears all the time.)

The fourth oft-mentioned finalist was Shad McLachlan, the DC at Acadia, a dark horse but someone thought to be an up-and-comer in the coaching fraternity.

As recently as 10 days ago, Sheahan replied to a request for an update on the hiring with the hopeful, but brief, "soon."

Instead, a few days later out came the press release that identified Marshall as a guest coach.

So let's see. That begs how many questions?

* If Marshall is the new DC, why bring him to town as a guest coach? Why not just announce his appointment? Does it have something to do with structuring his pay so as not to compromise whatever severance he's receiving from the Eskimos? (Co-ordinators in the CFL typically make low six figures; the Queen's job was advertised at about $54,000.)

* If he's not the new co-ordinator, why bring him to camp as a guest coach?

* How long can the Gaels go without a co-ordinator? Recruiting season is largely gone but isn't spring practice the place where systems are introduced? Given that whoever gets the job will want at least to tinker with the Pat Tracey regime, how much are his hands being tied by the delay?

* Without a DC driving the bus, what exactly will the defensive guest coaches Vespaziani and Marshall teach at spring camp?

* Mullen and McLachlan both have coaching jobs. Mullen is also a vice-principal this semester at Loyalist Collegiate. If one of them is the preferred candidate, is there a snag getting out of their current positions?

* Is the preferred candidate haggling over money? If so, that can be troublesome, given the glacier-like speed with which the bureaucracy moves at Queen's, but it might explain the delay. (And if the successful candidate isn't Mullen, you can bet it will be a tough sell to get any money to supplement the salary from a football club with strong personal loyalty to him.)

* And if it isn't Mullen, why ask him to apply? How likely would it be that if it is Mullen - as it should be, by the way, if he truly wants it - he'd be haggling over money?

* If money is at the root of the delay, how likely is it the new man sees in his future any long-term affinity with the program? If the prestige of one of the country's most storied and successful programs isn't worth anything, the job security should be. (Is anyone still alive who remembers the last time a Queen's football coach was fired?)

From the football team's point of view, none of this kind of speculation is helpful, and it doesn't befit a team that works so hard to do things the right way. It's time to end it. Make a decision and move on.
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