A day after the Vanier Cup ended the university season, D’Amore informed his players before the department of athletics announced he was stepping down.
“It’s something I talked about with my family and contemplated since the season was done,” the 42-year-old D’Amore said Sunday. “The most important thing was players didn’t hear before I told them.
“The last couple of years, I’m not going into great detail, but it’s been challenging balancing family time with work time and we’ve gone through some difficult times the last few years. It’s challenging to the support team at home and giving everything here. For me, it’s time to focus time on my family.”
Just the fourth head coach in the program’s 50-year history, D’Amore was named interim coach in 2011 and responded by leading the Lancers to a 5-3 record, a spot in the OUA semifinals and being named the Tuffy Knight Award winner as the league’s top coach. The school quickly dropped the interim tag.
Under D’Amore, the Lancers would make four-straight trips to the playoffs from 2011-14, but have failed to get to the playoffs the past four seasons.
“Some of the greatest success in the program’s history has come under Joe,” Lancers athletic director Mike Havey said. “The last few years have been challenging for everyone involved. I think that’s weighed on his mind, too. No one gets into this business to lose.”
Havey, who spent 13 seasons as head coach of the men’s basketball team before being named associated athletic director in 2004, knows full well of the grind of being on the road with the club and the family sacrifice involved.
“I have walked in these very footsteps, so no one needs to explain it with me,” Havey said. “It’s not easy. Joe’s reasons are his reasons. At this time, he needs to devote time to his family.”
While surprised by the announcement, quarterback Sam Girard said the players support D’Amore’s decision.
“There’s a lot of emotions that come with any major change,” Girard said. “I’m sad to lose Joe. We’d built a great relationship over the past three years.
“We’re all going to miss coach D’Amore. We support him for choosing to step down and wish him nothing, but the best in the future. He’s been a fantastic role model and is truly a great man.” Unlike 2011, Havey said the program is in much better shape to handle the transition this time. The Lancers now have two full-time assistant coaches on staff, which wasn’t the case in 2011, and those coaches were already on the way to Ottawa on Sunday for this week’s OFSAA football championships.
“We’ve got full-time bodies in the office that will still have oars in the water to try and make Lancer football better,” Havey said.
But the Lancers will have competition in search of a new coach with Queen’s, McMaster and Guelph also in the market for a new leader.
“We are one of four in the OUA searching for a coach,” Havey said. “Everyone’s out of the gate ahead of us and it’s competitive out there.”
“We’re going to make it as quick as possible,” Havey said. “I’m not going to say any names, but we do have some prospects in mind, yes. There are some exciting possibilities out there.
“In terms of timetable, we’re committed to getting the best possible and as expeditiously as possible.” D’Amore, who played receiver for the school from 1996-2000 and then returned from playing in Germany to coach, will be around the office for a few more weeks, but admits it will be strange walking away from a place that has been such a big part of his life.
“It’s going to be different,” D’Amore said. “It was emotional (Sunday) to say bye to my team and the kids. They understand. It’ll be tough to empty my office, but I’m not leaving disgruntled or upset.
“I wish I had won more games, but I’m happy where the program’s at and believe the program’s in a good place. It’s not far fetched for them to get over the hump the next couple years and I’ll be here to watch games and be a fan.”
Joe D'Amore is stepping down as head coach of the Windsor Lancers football program after eight seasons.
"For the past eight years I have had the honour and privilege to lead the Lancer football team, along with hundreds of outstanding young men," D'Amore said.
"I want to thank my entire Lancer family including my coaches and players for all their dedication and support during my time here. It has been an incredible ride and I will continue to follow and support all the Lancer teams in the future."
The Windsorite led the team to four Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoff appearances from 2011 to 2014. He was named OUA Football Coach of the Year in 2011 after the team advanced to the OUA semi-finals.
D'Amore was also a player for the team from 1996 to 2000 as a wide receiver and was team captain for three seasons.
Director of athletics Mike Havey says he's grateful for D'Amore's hard work over the years.
"He is a true Lancer who was committed as both a coach and as a student athlete to represent the University of Windsor with great pride and spirit," Havey said, wishing him all the best.
D'Amore said he's excited about the next chapter in his life, but will "always be a proud Lancer because that is who I am and that is who I will always be."
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