When Kelly Jeffrey completes his new four-year contract he will have become the second longest serving head coach of the Mount Allison Mounties, trailing only the unforgettable Angus (No Fuss Gus) MacFarlane.
Jeffrey has served in that role for the past five seasons and will have completed nine when this deal ends in 1916, while MacFarlane held the post for 13 years, combining it with that of athletic director for the final eight.
One of the major problems facing the Mounties in developing a solid long-term plan in recent years has been a lack of consistency in the coaching ranks. Since the turn of the century no fewer than five coaches have held the position, some for as little as one or two years. This hindered recruitment and did little to encourage generous support from the alumni.
However, with some solidity at the position, both the support group and the university administration have become more encouraging.
During a discussion regarding the recent signing of Jeffrey to a four-year contract, athletic director Pierre Arsenault said the program appears to be on the right path and little consideration was ever given to looking outside for a new face. He said the present stance is more about a culture of development, adding that Jeffrey is about stability, both in football and academics.
And he anticipates this phase will improve as the head coach will have the luxury of an entire staff that has learned under his guidance and will have just that much more experience under their collective belts.
Previous coaching contracts have been for three years and the move to four is not significant according to Arsenault, noting that neither three nor four have ever been "set in stone."
During his tenure here Jeffrey has taken the team to the Atlantic University Football Conference playoffs on three occasions but has been unable to reach the championship game. As a matter of fact it has been 14 years since that goal has been accomplished. The Mounties have posted just nine wins as opposed to 31 defeats during that stretch but have generally shown improvement. However, at the same time the level of play of the competition has also increased.
While the appointment was the decision of Arsenault, he said the Fifth Quarter Club executive had concurred with his assessment and will continue to provide strong backing as efforts are exerted to encourage some of the finest student-athletes to come to Sackville and participate in the reformation.
While supporters of the Mounties have shown backing for the head coach, he, by his own admission, is a conservative play caller, perhaps a reflection of his background as a player and long-time coach in various locations in the US. With most of the personnel having been recruited by himself, Jeffrey is expected to put his own stamp on the team and with more skilled players will, no doubt, show a greater diversity in his attack.
Since his arrival at the helm he has recruited some amazing players like current performers Jake LeBlanc, Donovan Saunders, Jordan Botel, Kwame Adjei and Michael Bohan. With this nucleus it is possible a solid squad could be created, although it will require the acquisition of a few huge offensive linemen of the Mike Filer calibre and receivers like Adam Molnar and Gary Ross.
In Saunders the Mounties have an All-Conference punt returner/corner and in LeBlanc they have an All-Canadian defensive tackle. Botel proved a workhorse in leading the conference in rushing. Adjei turned into a punishing safety and Bohan has the tools to attain all-star status.
Showing optimism about the future of football at Mount Allison, Jeffrey is pleased with the re-signing, saying he is excited and thankful for the opportunity to continue to improve the program.
"With the continued support of our administration I am thrilled to be part of Mount Allison for four more years. I believe our best years are to come and feel fortunate to be associated with such great students and coaches."
And Arsenault is quoted as saying "there is no question that through Kelly's professionalism, his knowledge of the game, and his passion for excellence, he has advanced our program in significant fashion. As we move closer to our ultimate goal of winning an AUS championship we do so with confidence that we have the right coach in place to lead our program."
This will require ever-increased support from the Fifth Quarter Club, alumni and university administration, along with even greater success in recruiting talented personnel and plenty of "breaks" – all the ingredients to carry the Mounties to a third try for the Vanier Cup. These pieces were in place in 1984, seven years later in 1991, and now 22 years later talk is again surfacing about such grandiose hopes. Good luck, and may they come true sooner than later. It is about time the "die-hard" fans are rewarded for their undying loyalty.