Kelly Bates was dismissed as SFU head football coach on Thursday. (SFU athletics)
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Bates fired as Clan head coach, Simon Fraser vows commitment to football as new coaching search begins at SFU

BURNABY — The stormiest day yet in this tumultuous era of Simon Fraser Clan football hit hard Thursday with news that the school had fired head coach Kelly Bates after three winless seasons.

“I feel like I have let them down and these kids deserve nothing but the best,” Bates said Thursday afternoon, fighting back tears in talking about the players he will leave behind in the program.

“You accept this side of the business when you make the decision to be in it,” added Bates who was informed by SFU athletic director Theresa Hanson that his contract would not be renewed after compiling an 0-29 record.

“It is reality and it is Theresa’s prerogative to do what she sees fit, whether I agree with it or not,” continued Bates. “The decision has been made to change the head coach and now the kids deserve everyone’s support as they move forward in that process. I would ask that everyone support the search for a new head coach.”

Hanson admitted there was nothing easy or pleasant about making the change.

“One of the key messages is that this is nothing personal,” said Hanson. “Kelly Bates is a great person. This is not about character, work ethic or passion to the program. It is about what’s in the best interest of the program and you have to look at everything, including performance. Three years without a win is difficult for the student athletes and for the reputation of the program.

“But what goes hand-in-hand,” continued Hanson,”is a long-term strategy for the football program. That’s why the decision was made to make a change at the leadership level.”

Classy in his exit, Bates, the former B.C. Lions’ lineman who had just begun to delve into the coaching world at the CFL level when the SFU job came open in early 2015, exits the program just as Simon Fraser has re-affirmed its commitment to the sport, providing more resources to the incoming hire.

“I didn’t wake up this morning and decide ‘I’m going to make a coaching change today,’’ said Hanson. “Over the past several weeks, I have discussed the future of our football program extensively with the university, and the good news is that the university is committed to helping develop new strategies and providing resources around staffing and financial support for football.”

In more specific terms?

“It is an investment into scholarships, and while not to a bigger coaching staff, putting more resources into coaching so the new head coach can have a plan. It’s also about working together with our alumni on a fund-raising strategy which helps the new coach achieve success.”

When asked why the decision on Bates wasn’t made upon completion of the regular season a few weeks ago, as to do the least damage to the recruiting cycle, Hanson admitted she has not been deaf to the noise surrounding the future fate of the program.

“There is a lot of chatter out there of ‘Why does SFU still have football?’” acknowledged Hanson. “To get a solid commitment from the university that they are committed to football, things like that take time. They agree that football is important to the reputation of the school and they are committed to investing additional resources in working with our alumni to grow that support because we want to be successful.”

The timeline and requirements for the new coach?

Hanson called prior NCAA coaching experience “a huge asset” in the next Clan coach, and she said she will be proactive in making the hire as soon as she can.

“I have identified some coaches I think will be a good fit,” she said, “and I will talk to them. I am not waiting to see who comes to me. This isn’t something I don’t want dragging on into February.”

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