Head Coach John Garrett dismissed after five seasons


Athletics has begun the national search process for a new head football coach. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards)

By Lucie Lagodich, Editor-in-Chief

Football Head Coach John Garrett will not return to coach the 2022 season. With a 15-33 overall record and 13-14 in Patriot League play, Garrett took over the program in December 2016 and is leaving the Leopards after his fifth season.

Announced last week after the 10-17 loss to rival Lehigh, the college will not be renewing Garrett’s contract, and Defensive Coordinator Doug McFadden will assume the position of interim head coach until the school announces his replacement.

Garrett did not respond to a request for comment.

“We are working to move quickly but diligently to identify the next Fred M. Kirby Head Football Coach at Lafayette. We’ve assembled a search committee and the process is moving forward,” Director of Athletics Sherryta Freeman wrote in an email.

McFadden assumed the role of interim head coach after completing his 12th season with the program.

“I just have to thank Coach Garrett for giving me the opportunity of retaining me to be able to be a part of the staff. We had our ups and downs out on the football field, and unfortunately, we couldn’t win a few more,” McFadden said.

While the timeline for hiring a new head coach remains unclear, Athletics has already begun conducting interviews. In the announcement of his departure, Freeman shared that a national search would begin immediately.

“I think that everyone’s really going to miss him and that he was a really good leader of our team, and he did a really great job over his time here and laid a really good foundation and built a lot here while he was here,” sophomore linebacker Preston Forney said. “Going in with a new coach, it can be definitely a challenge in some senses, kind of redefining the culture and I’d say there can just be a lot of change, a lot of new things with a coach. But I think our team will adapt to it pretty well and it can be really good for us.”

It is unclear whether students will be involved in the interviewing and hiring process, but they were consulted, according to Freeman.

“We have a tremendous group of student-athletes who represent our football program. Their athletic experience is a priority for us and an important part of their journeys at Lafayette College. We sought out their insight early on in this process and it has helped shape our priorities,” Freeman wrote.

When looking ahead to 2022, senior defensive lineman Ian Grayson said he is hopeful that the next head coach will be tenacious and improve team standings. Grayson was recruited by Garrett and is looking forward to a fifth year of competition next season.

“I feel that program definitely embodies the mentality of what the head coach offers,” Grayson said. “I feel like players will be more motivated to play for a coach that showed the amount of grit and the amount of toughness you need to play football.”

Forney added that while the news was unexpected, turnover is common in coaching positions at both the college level and in the NFL.

“You’re seeing all over the country right now at the biggest schools in the country of big-time coaches, leaving, going other places, stuff like that,” Forney said. “I think we were definitely surprised but myself and the whole team kind of just knows like that’s how it goes in big-time football and that’s just how it is.”

Despite being in the off-season, McFadden said they remain busy. With the Leopards first signing day fast approaching, McFadden will be leading this weekend’s recruiting weekend with 15 of their 16 committed recruits spending their weekend at Lafayette.

Dec. 15 is the first of two signing days for the Leopards, and this weekend’s recruits may have to sign without knowing Garrett’s replacement.

“From what I’ve been told, they want to do it in a timely manner and should happen in the next couple of weeks,” McFadden said. “That’s my best guess, they would like to do it by signing day.”

Players spoke positively of Garrett, sharing that while he will be missed by the team, they are confident in their ability to play well next season and improve this year’s standings of 3-8 overall, 2-4 Patriot League.

“I’m feeling hopeful about it. Whoever they hire they’ll bring some sort of grit to the program,” Grayson said. “We definitely have the players and what we need to go and win games. This past year, I feel like we’ve definitely underperformed as far as what we had. Three and eight for three years, when we had full seasons, is not where you want to be.”

Athletics is “genuinely excited for the future of Lafayette football,” according to Freeman.

“Our next coach will continue to develop our current student-athletes and further enhance our program, pushing us into contention for Patriot League titles,” Freeman wrote. “Managing the transition in the 2022 season will be crucial for our next head coach.”