The football program at U of T is undergoing a changing-of-the-guard this summer. The Varsity Blues need a new head coach, as the man who led the team for the last 14 years has decided to resign.
Coach Bob Laycoe’s last day as chief of the football program at U of T will be June 30. He has been in charge of the squad since 1988.
“It was certainly the toughest decision of my coaching career then again, the easiest,” commented Laycoe. “It was time to take better care of myself and spend more time with my family.”
Laycoe has been coaching university football since 1969, when he was hired as head coach for the University of Saskatchewan. From there he went on to coach at the University of British Columbia from 1973 to 1988, ending up at U of T in 1988.
Over 33 years, Laycoe has witnessed drastic changes in university football, the most noticeable being in the quality and strength of players.
“There is a night and day difference between players now and when I started,” said Laycoe. “Athletes now are bigger, stronger, better conditioned and better coached.”
Laycoe has been no stranger to success throughout his career. He led his teams to three Vanier Cup titles: 1982 and 1986 with UBC and 1993 with U of T.
“Coach Laycoe was always there with words of encouragement, even at 6:30 in the morning during training camp,” remembers Ben Craig, a member of the football team for the past two seasons. “He is a very easy-going, fair and even-keeled coach.”
Andrew Campbell, a member of the team last season, was quick to praise a man he obviously admires: “Coach Laycoe attended every practice when I was on the team, despite his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was always available to help a player and enjoyed guiding us players to be the best that we could be.”
Although Laycoe has coached football for three decades, that hasn’t been his only role. He has also served as a mentor and an inspiration to his players.
“I have tried to give my players something they will remember and carry with them through life,” Laycoe said. “That’s what football is all about, so much more than just winning and losing.”
The football team will now have to try to look forward to the future under a new head coach. To some, this is an opportunity to continue the forward progress started by Laycoe.
“Having a new coach is an opportunity to build on what Coach Laycoe started,” remarked Craig. “There is always room for improvement.”
Even though Laycoe’s successor has yet to be named, Laycoe himself has some idea of what he hopes the new skipper will bring to the team: “I would expect the new coach will be an outstanding caretaker of the program.”