On Tuesday night, Kenyon announced the resignation of Head Football Coach Chris Monfiletto, marking the end of his seven-year stint in that capacity. He concluded his tenure with a 16-54 record, but finished on a 26-game losing streak. His overall winning percentage of .229 puts him second-to-last among all Lords head football coaches with at least five seasons with the school, only ahead of his immediate predecessor Ted Stanley (20-70, .222).
Monfiletto declined a request to be interviewed but wrote in an email, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach here for the past seven years. I have built relationships with the players and the community that will last forever. I couldn’t ask for anything more from the experience.”
When Monfiletto was hired in 2012, the Lords were coming off back-to-back winless seasons, which also will be how the next Lords head coach starts their tenure. He instantly gave the program the spark they needed, winning six games in his first season and finishing in a tie for third in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) standings, only the second time the Lords had finished with a winning record since 1990. His second year he finished with a respectable record of 4-6, but his tenure stalled after that, winning a total of six games over his final five seasons.
Some of the longtime Lords were not expecting the news. “I’m honestly really surprised, and to be honest I’m pretty sad about it. It’s not very easy to go through that big of a change as a football team,” Sam Becker ’20, starting defensive end for the Lords, said. “I really liked Coach [Monfiletto] and I thought he really cared about us as players.”
Kenyon’s Athletic Director (AD) Jill McCartney, currently in her first year in the position after longtime AD Peter Smith retired in December 2017, will be chairing the search committee for a new head coach. The athletic department must first petition for permission to post a job search at a monthly meeting; the next one is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 26. They hope to post their job application on Wednesday, Feb. 27 because, according to McCartney, they are required to keep the application open for two full weeks before they start to seriously consider any candidates.
Although the full roster has not been announced yet, the search committee will include a wide range of members from the Kenyon community. According to McCartney, the committee will feature current coaches, athletic administrators, admissions representatives, a faculty athletic representative and possibly alumni.
“Once we return from spring break, we will have passed that threshold of the two weeks, and that will give everyone time to review all the applications and hopefully move forward that next week with candidates we would like to do phone interviews with, and from there go to the on-campus interviews,” McCartney said.
The players will have their say in the process once the search committee narrows down the candidates for on-campus interviews.
“We’ve yet to determine what body of players or how will we engage the players, but once we bring them to campus, that’s when we will engage our players to get their feedback for candidates,” McCartney said. “Typically, with everybody we want to get a feeling of what do you like about each candidate, what are your concerns about each candidate, are there any candidates that you would deem unacceptable.”
McCartney also said they’re looking at all types of coaches with varying levels of experience. “Once you put everyone together, that’s how you determine who your top candidates are,” McCartney said.
Although several players declined to comment, those who did speak with the Collegian seemed consistent in what they wanted from a new coach. “[We need a coach] who wants to win as bad as we do, who gets to know his players… bring[s] the intensity and just get us back on track,” defensive end Adam Pollock ’21 said.
Defensive back Niall Regan ’21 concurred: “[The new coach should have] the ability to get the team behind him… a smart football mind, team motivation, and respect among his players and the staff,” he said. Becker also agreed: “We’re in such a need of a pattern-breaker, something to really change things up… kind of a natural leader. Someone who can get the change going early because we need change around here,” he said.
The players are not the only ones affected by the change, however, as several assistants who were brought in by coach Monfiletto are not guaranteed to keep their old jobs. “Assistant coaches are vulnerable whenever there’s a head coaching change,” McCartney said. “Sometimes those assistant coaches go with the head coaches, sometimes they stay, sometimes a new coach that’s coming in has the ability to bring one or more coaches on their own. That’ll all be [determined based on the next coach].”
Among other concerns, the timing of Monfiletto’s resignation puts the Lords in somewhat of a bind. Even with spring football season starting on March 25, McCartney gives April 1 as her optimistic date of the earliest possible time the job would be offered to a candidate. Moreover, if the job posting must be open for at least 30 days — the minimum period that the faculty handbook says Kenyon job postings must remain open for — the Lords could go through over half of spring football without a head coach.
“Part of me wants to say it’s not going to affect us because I think we have the discipline on this team to put this behind us and focus on what we need to do,” Becker said. “But at the same time, it’s kind of hard to not notice that you don’t have a head coach.”
Pollock agreed that despite the coaching change, “we have a really good group of [rising] senior leaders who I’m confident that regardless of what the coaching situation is at any given point, know what’s best for the team and will leave the team … coach or not coach, we’re going to be moving forward for sure.”
The new coach will face a history of losing that has hung over Kenyon football culture since its inception. Historically the Lords boast a record of 364-657-47, for a win percentage of .363 since 1890. Since 1950, the Lords have finished with 15 winning seasons and 49 losing ones. The overall lack of football success in Gambier must be taken into account when judging both the legacies of Monfiletto and his successor. “What I will tell each of the candidates is that I expect us to have a competitive football program,” McCartney said. “What does competitive mean? Well, it would be foolish for me to say we should be 10-0 next year, but I expect us to be competitive in our games.”