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Rams head coach Mike Gibson.  Photo by Jason Kerr.

For a man who’s just inherited the reins of a CIS football program, and all the frantic activity that goes with it, Mike Gibson looks surprisingly calm. The new Regina Rams head coach arrived home from a recruiting trip several days ago, and even though he only started in January, he’s settled into his newly purchased chair in his relatively empty office like he’s been here for years. Only the plain white office walls, free from pictures or personal mementos, give things away.

This is how it all begins for the University of Regina’s new bench boss. He speaks confidently and seriously about taking over the Rams after the retirement of long-time coach Frank McCrystal. However he also has a quiet smile and seems genuinely pleased with his new role.


“A lot of times you take jobs for professional reasons. Sometimes you take them for personal,” he says. “I had the opportunity to interview for head coaching jobs in the past. One was here in Saskatchewan with the Roughriders. One was a Division II school in the United States. I got an offer to be the head coach (in the U.S.), but the timing just wasn’t right. You often say the third time’s a charm, so here we are.”


Professional football can be a volatile business, with players and coach’s frequently switching teams and job titles. Gibson is no stranger to this side of the game, having spent 10 years in the CFL with five different clubs, primarily as an offensive co-ordinator and offensive line coach. He coached an additional two decades in the U.S. college ranks, at universities like Temple, Colgate and recently the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


“(There’s) a lot of uncertainty, a lot of moving around and so forth, and I was looking for a place where hopefully our family could come and stay for a while,” he explains. “I have a lot of fond memories of Regina from being with the Riders. I’ve always liked Regina. I think it’s very much a football town.”

Gibson became a part of Regina’s football history long before he joined the Rams. He was Kent Austin’s offensive line coach on a staff that led the Roughriders to a Grey Cup victory in 2007. Now, eight years later, his new players are happy to have that pedigree on their sideline.


“I’d heard a lot about him coaching CFL offensive lines and having great success there and making some great players,” says fifth year offensive tackle Aaron Picton. “From an offensive linesman’s standpoint that’s really exciting.”


While personal preferences and local connections (Gibson’s wife is from Yorkton) are what brought him here, football is what’s going to keep him here, and even though it’s only February, the team is already preparing for next season. The Rams have just finished a morning workout and the early results are reassuring.


“One of the most enjoyable things is just the freshness of their attitudes,” Gibson says. “There are a lot of great guys in professional football, but there are also some not so good guys. Unfortunately, at times, you can’t do anything about those not so good guys because they’re tied into long-term contracts or making big money and things like that. At this level, they have an eagerness and they want to do well. They want to be good players.”


Gibson is a rookie head coach, facing a daunting first season. The Rams were 3-5 last year and lost 56-0 in the playoffs to the heavily favoured Calgary Dinos. Sitting on a table behind his chair sits a large binder full of notes, suggestions and thoughts based on his observations from more than 30 years of coaching. He’s been preparing for this day for a long time.


“The number one thing is our players come here and have a good experience and graduate,” he says. “The number two thing is that they represent this university how it should be represented, because it’s an outstanding school, not getting in trouble outside the academics, the social end of it and all that kind of thing. Number three, obviously, to win. Number four, to be known for something.”


Gibson takes time to elaborate on that last point. Known for what? That’s up to the players, but Gibson says he’ll be there, guiding them in the right direction the whole time.


“We have a long road ahead of us, but everyday we’re trying to take another step along that road,” he says. “If we do the little things right, the big things seem to take care of themselves.”


Gibson is just the second coach to lead the Rams since the team joined the CIS. When asked about replacing his well-known predecessor, he simply smiles.


“Anyone who can have (Frank’s) longevity had to be doing things the right way, but it’s a different day, you know what I mean? I’m not trying to be Frank McCrystal like the next guy who comes in this seat isn’t going to try to be Mike Gibson... I know that when Frank left here he had a lot of friends and a lot of people who thought very highly of him. I hope at the end of the day, when I leave here, people think the same thing (of me).”