It’s not often that a coach at a non-Big Five Conference football program turns down an offer from one in a power FBS league. Thursday, James Willis did just that.
Wednesday, Louisiana-Lafayette defensive coordinator informed his boss, Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth, along with his players that he was leaving to take the linebackers coach job at Florida State. Willis was set to replace Charles Kelly, who was promoted to coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt left for the same job at Georgia.
After some soul-searching overnight and a morning conversation with Hudspeth, however, Willis did an about-face and decided to remain at UL-L.
In confirming that he was staying with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Willis, formerly an assistant at both Alabama and Auburn, issued as heartfelt of a statement as you’ll find in this kind of situation.
“My decision to leave the Ragin’ Cajuns program has weighed heavily on me since I announced my decision to the players last night. After some soul-searching over night, I spoke with coach Hudspeth earlier today about this, and he invited me to remain with the Cajuns.
“It was hard to tell that group of young men, who just 12 months earlier had welcomed me into the program, that I was leaving. I could see the disappointment in their eyes when we talked. We asked them to buy into the system that we were teaching and the result was a Sun Belt Conference title.
“After thinking about things further, I feel I owe the players more than just one season after they responded so well to our philosophy. Professionally, I believe it is in my best interest of my coaching career to remain a coordinator instead of stepping back to become a position coach.”
Very, very classy, coach. And essentially unheard of as well.
2013 was Willis’ first season with the Ragin’ Cajuns, leading a UL-L defense that was third in the Sun Belt — up from eighth the year prior to his arrival — and played a significant role in the football program’s second SBC co-championship.
(Photo credit: Louisiana-Lafayette athletics)