Fraser Caldwell

Sports Editor

 

Stefan Ptaszek’s contract may have been expiring, but after the colossal accomplishment of his squad this past season, the future of the Marauders’ bench boss didn’t remain uncertain for long.

McMaster’s Department of Athletics and Recreation announced the signing of Ptaszek to a new five-year contract on Dec. 14, along with the promotion of offensive coordinator Jon Behie to the role of Assistant Head Coach.

The move comes as no surprise after the Marauders stormed to victory in the Vanier Cup under the leadership of Ptaszek, and with the considerable contribution of Behie’s CIS-leading offensive unit.

McMaster’s Director of Athletics and Recreation, Jeff Giles is adamant however that the decision to keep Ptaszek at the helm was made long before the Marauders’ well-documented playoff success.

“It wasn’t so much about winning for us this year, whether you define ‘winning’ as taking the Yates Cup or however you want to define it,” said Giles of the new deal. “It was about showing that we were moving towards our goals. And obviously we did that – we did more than that.

“I offered [Ptaszek] an extension before the Yates Cup, because I wanted him to know that it didn’t matter if we won or lost at that point. We had shown progress.”

For his part, the Marauder coach explains that the news of his rehiring was a great weight off his shoulders, coming as it did at the conclusion of McMaster’s conference season. The impending end of a contract is a stressful time for any coach, for whom the job is his livelihood and that of his family.

“This is how I feed my family, and the joys of coaching and the privilege of working with these young men is not indefinite,” said Ptaszek. “It comes with some stress, and renewing contracts is a big deal in this industry.

“For every coach that you see who has a 20-year career in Canada there are hundreds that fell short of that. The only way to do this job right is to think long-term and invest in these young men on a long-term basis. Unfortunately, your contract doesn’t always reflect that.”

In that respect, Ptaszek’s new five-year deal allows him significant latitude, particularly with regards to recruiting, where the assurance of stability at the head coaching position could be a major selling point for potential athletes and their families.

“The nice thing about McMaster is that the majority of the staff has been here for closer to 20 years than five,” said the Marauder coach. “Isn’t it nice to be able to come in here and know that your positional coach will probably be here until you graduate? It’s pretty unique to have that stability.

“It makes a difference when you’re in a mom and dad’s living room and they know that you’re going to be there for the duration. If they decide that they like you, then they know that you’ll be there to direct the ship for the next four or five years.”

With the new deal comes an inevitable salary increase for the championship-winning coach. The most recent public salary disclosure figures from 2010 list Ptaszek as having earned $131, 870 in that fiscal year, which made him the second-highest paid head coach in Ontario for the reporting period behind UWO’s Greg Marshall ($131, 937).

However, Giles indicates that the reported figure was unusually high as a result of an “extra-ordinary payment.” While declining to disclose the exact financial figures involved in the new contract, the Athletic Director did admit that they represented a marked increase.

“He got a bump,” Giles said of Ptaszek’s compensation. “Part of the process was talking to the other Athletic Directors in the OUA and talking about what their coaches make – coaches that have similar track records to him.

“I think the offer we settled on is more than fair and it compensates him along the lines of his coaching brethren and what they’ve achieved as well.”

While Ptaszek enjoys a renewed role with the program, his resident offensive guru Jon Behie has seen his importance within the Marauder football hierarchy reaffirmed.

The coordinator – whose creative and devastatingly effective offense dominated the country’s statistical charts – is now officially recognized for what has long been his de facto role as Ptaszek’s overall assistant.

On the topic of his promotion, Behie is quick to express the degree to which he is gratified by the confidence in him shown by his head coach and the department as a whole.

“I’m only 28, so to have that title [as Assistant Head Coach] at this point in my career means a lot,” said Behie. “It tells me that Stef and Jeff Giles appreciate the work that I’ve done and that they’ve recognized it. So it’s pretty cool.”

The newly promoted coach indicates that the greatest change inherent in his new role will be an administrative one, as he continues to learn the nuances involved in running a varsity football program.

“On a day-to-day basis there aren’t many changes to my role,” said Behie. “I might be poking my nose in a little bit in terms of the behind the scenes stuff, just because I want to make a life-long career out of this. That means understanding how the financial side works on the basis of what Stef does.

“I’ll be looking in for observational purposes to understand how a program really works. I think I have a pretty good idea already, but there are always going to be unexpected things if I make that next step, and I’d like to be as prepared as possible for that whenever it comes.”

If there is one thing that the new role for Behie indicates, it is that Stefan Ptaszek has a very apparent understudy on hand, and one that is uniquely homegrown for a McMaster program that is traditionally used to looking elsewhere for coaching talent.

While his lengthy contract makes no mystery of the fact that he intends to remain with the Marauders for the foreseeable future, Ptaszek also recognizes the value of having a talented veteran of the program on hand.

“McMaster, in choosing its head coaches in recent history has gone outside of the program,” said the Marauder bench boss.

“I take tremendous pride in the fact that we’re starting to develop some of our bright student athletes and retaining them so that the next time this program is looking for a head coach, they don’t have to look outside of the Maroon and Grey.”

Behie makes no secret of his desire to one day become a head coach in the CIS, and the fact that such an opportunity at the school he once donned the uniform for would be the stuff of dreams. However, the coordinator has no intention of unseating a man he enjoys working with, and one under whom he has flourished.

“My goal professionally is to become a head coach at the CIS level,” said Behie. “That’s what I want to do and what I’ve wanted to do since I finished playing. This place means more to me than any other place in the world ever could. Ultimately, it would be great to accomplish that goal here.

“But at the same time, Stef is one of the best head coaches in the entire country and I really enjoy working with him. He gives me the freedom to do what I think is necessary offensively, and I’ll work under him happily for as long as he’s around here.”

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