Waterloo Region Record
When Wilfrid Laurier handed the keys of its once-proud program to a baby-faced outsider with zero head coaching experience in Canadian university football in 2013, there were plenty of skeptics.
Michael Faulds was barely 29 and from the Golden Hawks’ sworn enemy — the Western Mustangs (gasp!) with whom he was a record-setting quarterback.
But, Laurier’s athletic director Peter Baxter said he knew all along there was something special about Faulds, whom he believed would turn things around in short order.
Still, to go from a humbling 1-7 (won-lost) campaign in Faulds’ first season with the Hawks, to 7-1 this year and a berth in Saturday’s Yates Cup against those same Mustangs in London, Ont., in his fourth season, well, that is a notable achievement.
On Thursday at an awards ceremony in Burlington, Faulds was handed the Tuffy Knight Award as the coach of the year in the Ontario University Athletics conference, as voted by his peers.
“Michael told our hiring committee he knew the tradition of Laurier football,” Baxter remembered of the hiring process back in 2013. “He loved the atmosphere here. He thrived in it, but that he would carve his own path.”
Ironically, the West Virginia-bred Knight was also a 29-year-old outsider when he was brought in to coach the Golden Hawks in 1966.
Knight went on to pilot the Hawks for 19 mostly glorious seasons and an impressive 85-34-5 record.
“Michael is a hard worker,” Baxter said. “He’s put structure into the program and set expectations. He’s tough, but empathetic and compassionate, and he makes the players work for each other.
“That speaks to the character of our leader.”
Faulds said his confidence never wavered despite the massive rebuild ahead of him four seasons ago.
“I was crazy enough to think we could be (in the Yates Cup) last year,” Faulds said.
And when he found he won the coaching award, Faulds said he called his staff into his office because the honour was as much theirs to celebrate as it was his.
“This is a staff award,” Faulds said. “Our whole staff works 12 months of the year for 10 or 12 (game days) of the year.”