Denis Piche era over at Ottawa U

Denis Piche resigned as head coach of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football team after eight seasons at the helm of the program. Piche leaves the Gee-Gees with a regular season record of 44-20 and eight straight OUA playoff berths.

A couple quotes from the interview, plus a few from Team 1200’s chats with Piché and Ottawa AD Luc Gélineau:
•On the workload: “To make things work here, a coach has to accumulate 3,500 hours a year. The landscape in CIS football has changed dramatically in the past 6-7 years. You put in the 3,500 hours, you competition is just crazy. it just never ends. You go on vacation, you have to negotiate with the family, 10 minutes on the BlackBerry in the morning, 10 minutes on the BlackBerry in the evening. There’s only one way to do this and it’s to do this to win.”

•”During the season, it is 14- and 16-hour days … Then you’re on the road recruiting for nine days straight, going to combines, making home visits. You start at 8:30, go to bed at 11, do it over again, all that time, you call home, and wish everyone good night.”
On the transition (from The Team): “There’s no way there’s going to be an overhauling of the program. We’re not ready to say exactly how it (the job search) is going to shape up, but we’re close to having it figured out. No one is coming from the external. We want to stress to the kids that the program is still going to be their program. No one is going to be figuring out who the Gee-Gees are when we open the season vs. Western on Labour Day. It’s still going to be a fast team, an athletic team.”

On future opportunities (from The Team): “I have another exciting adventure to go to that I can’t really talk about now. I’m definitely not going to be on a football field, other than to congratulate our fellow Gee-Gees players and coaches for winning a lot of football games.”

On future opportunities in football: “I’ve been on a football field since I was eight, nine years old. It was strange to talk to the kids at the speed practice this morning. They handled it very well and understood the situation. Sometimes you just to have to bear down and do what your heart tells you … I have no clue if I’ll coach again. I’ll be embarking on a new adventure.”

Any regrets: “There’s no doubt I would have liked to have taken these kids to a national championship. The landscape has changed so much, there’s so much that goes into being a national contender. To take it to the next level, to be a national champion, it’s so much more than just having players … Maybe I’ll feel like I ran out of time at the University of Ottawa. If that’s considered a regret, that’s my only regret. We have so many young men who come here, develop, and become an asset to our society. That’s something we’re very proud of.”
Ottawa AD Luc Gélineau (from The Team 1200):

•On his coach’s contribution: “Denis is leaving us with a strong foundation. My challenge is to find someone who can take Denis’ legacy and keep adding to it. Denis was able to stabilize a couple important areas for us. Recruiting a student-athlete is more difficult, succeeding academically is more difficult. He’s given us pillars in those areas.”

•On the transition: “We have a foundation and within that foundation, there is an excellent core of student-athletes and a great coaching staff. We will establish the leadership of the program within the current coaching staff, then we will launch a national search. Short-term, it’s existing coaching staff. We will launch a coaching search and hopefully as soon as the season’s over, December, we will have an announcement.”

•On having an interim coach: “The reality in the CFL is once you’ve passed the first week of February, everyone has made commitments, signed contracts. I believe we will have excellent coaches from the CFL applying for the job, so we want to give them a chance.”

From Ottawa Sun…

Denis Piche says his family has to come first. That is why he is leaving the Ottawa GeeGees football program after eight years as head coach.

“It’s still going to be Gee-Gee football – the same message, but a different messenger,” Piche said Wednesday morning, a couple hours after breaking the news to the team during a morning workout. “This program will win and be a strong competitor. I will be a volunteer consultant for the transition period.

“They’re keeping everything the same. We have the best coaching staff, great kids. For the kids who chose Ottawa U and have chosen Ottawa U, it will not be a feeling next season of, ‘wow, this is not what I signed on for.’ I was really proud of how they handled it when I told them.”

Piche, 43, led the Gee-Gees to a Yates Cup in 2006 and guided the team to an unbeaten regular season in ’07. He said the demands of running the program and taking care of his young family, were growing untenable. He and his spouse, Sonia Sassemille, have two young daughters.

“You just get to a point where you have to make some decisions,” he said. “I had other offers while I was here but didn’t see myself going somewhere else, I had this is in my mind for the last seven, eight months and the timing was as good as it was going to be.

“It’s just too much,” he added. “My girls (Kaela and Kelli-Anne, ages nine and six) are growing up. There never would be a good time to do this, but it felt right.”

The Montreal native, who played for the Gee-Gees and was an assistant coach when they last won the national title in 2000, noted coaching CIS football now requires a commitment of 3,500 hours per year. Many schools have increased budgets and upgraded facilities. Half of the OUA’s 10 teams have moved into a new stadium since 2000.

“During the season, it is 14- and 16-hour days,” Piche says. “Then you’re on the road recruiting for nine days straight, going to combines, making home visits. You start at 8:30, go to bed at 11, do it over again, all that time, you call home and wish everyone good night.”

The Gee-Gees went 6-2 last fall – the losses were to the eventual OUA finalists, Western and Queen’s – before losing 27-15 to McMaster in the playoffs. They return much of their nucleus, including fourth-year QB Brad Sinopoli and running backs Jordan Wilson-Ross and Brendan Gillanders.

“Denis was an integral part of our football team’s success during the last 15 seasons, especially during his tenure as head coach,” said Luc Gelineau, University of Ottawa sports services director. “He was a tireless worker, great competitor and truly passionate about making the Gee-Gees a top ranked team and perennial contender in the OUA and the CIS.”

No successor was immediately named.

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