Goodbye to the coach: Pat Sheahan moves on

by Peter Joerss

An era officially came to an end at Concordia University as former Stinger head football coach Pat Sheahan greeted and heard well-wishers at a send-off on February 18. Last month he accepted an offer to become head coach at Queen's University, in Kingston, Ont.

Sheahan"Both my parents and parents-in-law live about 40 minutes from the university," said the native of Brockville, Ont. "We're getting to a point in our lives when those things are getting more important. You don't get many chances to ponder a career move in my business. This may have been my best chance to move back to that part of the country."

Almost 100 friends and family packed the Loyola Faculty Club to give their thanks and send the coach off with mementos from his 11 years at Concordia. Though his teams posted an overall winning record of 61-44-1 and played in the Vanier Cup during his tenure, people spoke mostly of the 43-year-old's impact off the field.

"I guess we all know that universities are far more than lecture halls and laboratories. A university is about people," said Rector Frederick Lowy. "Students require the kind of mentoring that Pat has given them. We're especially proud of the person he is."

Co-captain Jason Casey remembered the relationship Sheahan had with his players. "He wasn't just a coach," he said." His door was open all the time, be it in his office or at home. You could talk to the man about anything. It was like having a father away from home. He's meant everything to me."

Sheahan spent the past eight summers running a successful children's day camp at the Loyola campus. "Pat made the camp what it was," said Nina Peritz, mother of two boys enrolled in the camp. "He loved what he did, and it showed."

Taking over at head coach for Sheahan is last year's offensive co-ordinator, Gerry McGrath, who, before taking the job at Concordia nine years ago, received a similar offer from Bishop's University. In the end, he chose Loyola because of Sheahan.

"The greatest thing he's been able to do is work hard for the players," McGrath said. "In the university setting, it's more than wins and losses. It's about people."

Coach Sheahan guided the Stingers to OQIFC championships in 1993 and 1998. 1998 also saw a thrilling win in the Atlantic Bowl and Concordia's first appearance in the Vanier Cup (national championship). While he would have liked a Vanier Cup, he's happy that the football program is in better shape than it was when he arrived 11 years ago, and knows that the team will survive without him.

"I look at my time as a brief episode in a 90-year history," he said. "I hope that in the time I carried the torch, people look back and see it as a positive time."

While he worked here, he also studied, earning a BSc (1978), a Graduate Diploma in Sports Administration (1981) and an MA in Education (1999). Coach Sheahan was presented with a golden whistle, a Concordia clock and a framed Concordia Stinger logo with his championship medals.

Photo: An emotional Pat Sheahan accepts a memento of his years with the Stingers from women's hockey coach Les Lawton.

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