The Hamilton Spectator
Now Quinlan will be trying to beat Mac
Marauders legend is York’s new offensive co-ordinator
As understatements go, suggesting York University hasn’t been a football powerhouse in recent years would be sort of like saying Rio’s waste-filled harbour hasn’t exactly been a preferred destination for snorkeling.
The Lions have been bad. Check that, they’ve been really bad. Last year, they won a single game — over the even-worse Waterloo Warriors — which followed a 2014 season in which they were shut out completely. In the past eight seasons combined, they’ve won as many games as McMaster won just last year.
So you’d think that when former Marauders’ great Kyle Quinlan takes over as offensive co-ordinator next fall, he’s going to have to get used to some losing. Something he hasn’t done much in his life.
“I’m my playing career I haven’t,” he says, starting to chuckle. “But in my coaching career, I’ve done a tremendous amount of losing.”
That’s a bit self-deprecating, but he’s got a point. Sort of.
When he took over the Ontario Varsity Football League Hamilton Ironmen a couple years ago, the one-time Hec Crighton winner and Vanier Cup MVP inherited a team that wasn’t winning. It still wasn’t when he left — it came out on top once in two seasons — but it was decidedly better. The gap between it and its opponents had closed considerably.
The Holland College team in P.E.I. he coached this past autumn, on the other hand, won its third-straight championship. It wasn’t an enormously high-scoring outfit but he found a way to make it work.
He also had Mac. The truth is, he could have stayed on the McMaster sideline where he’d been since graduation and where he was comfortable working as quarterbacks’ coach. That would’ve given him plenty of opportunity to be part of a perennial powerhouse and likely earn a bunch more trips to the Yates Cup or beyond.
But part of what drove him to be a great quarterback was a need to prove himself. The same with coaching. He wanted to become a co-ordinator at a CIS school or maybe even the head coach someday. He figured nobody would pluck him off the Marauders’ staff without showing he could stand on his own and demonstrate that whatever happened wasn’t the result of the rest of the coaches or the big maroon machine grinding forward.
So he headed east last year to go to Holland College, which clearly turned out to be a well-conceived plan, even if he didn’t necessarily expect it to work this quickly.
But York? Really?
Even for someone eager to get back to this part of the world, is the second-lowest-scoring team in Ontario truly the best landing spot for a guy who loves offence and loves winning?
To answer that, you have to know that the 26-year-old also says he likes a challenge.
Building something from nothing strikes him as more intriguing than being a caretaker of a powerhouse.
So when York called him a month or so ago and offered the job, it instantly got his attention. His memories of the place, after all, suggest some work needs to be done.
During his playing career, Quinlan beat the Lions 49-8, 64-6 and 54-14. And that isn’t even truly reflective of just how badly Mac pummelled them.
“We would play the first half at most,” he sheepishly says of himself and the rest of the starters.
Then while on the Mac sideline as quarterbacks’ coach for those two seasons since he hung up the helmet, his side won 49-27 and 49-2. So if he was looking to build something, geez, no place better than this.
He’ll now be spending the offseason creating a playbook and helping with recruiting. Depth has been the Lions’ biggest problem, he says. That has to get resolved to get things pointed in the right direction.
And, for the most-pressing question, yes, he’s already checked the schedule and knows McMaster comes to visit on the secondlast week of the season.
That will almost certainly feel more than a little weird. Partly because he’ll be wearing red instead of maroon.
Mostly though, because he’ll be looking down the sideline and realizing he’s coaching against Stef Ptaszek and Jon Behie and so many familiar faces he’s known since he was a teenager.
“Certainly there’s an interest in their well-being,” he says. “But it’ll be a little less for those two or three hours.”