The off-season of coaching staff upheaval continues for the Western Mustangs football program, as offensive line coach Jean-Paul Circelli has been hired as the head coach of the Windsor Lancers.
Circelli spent the last four years coaching at Western, where his linemen helped the Mustangs lead the nation in points and yardage throughout his tenure with the program. During that period, 15 Western offensive linemen earned OUA all-star honours and seven were named U Sports All-Canadians.
A native of London, Circelli began his university football career as a player at McMaster University, where he suited up for then-Marauders head coach Greg Marshall from 2001 to 2005 and won three Yates Cup titles in a row.
After his playing days, he took over the London Catholic Central High School football program from his father, Mike Circelli.
In 2014, the younger Circelli moved to Montreal to coach the offensive line at Concordia University. After a one-year stint with the Stingers, he again returned to London to join Marshall's staff and lead the Mustangs offensive line. He also led the London Junior Mustangs program to back-to-back Ontario Provincial Football League titles and a 21–0 record over the last two seasons.
At every level he's coached, he's won. And now he fulfills his decade-long dream of leading his own university football program.
"I'm honestly just really excited about the opportunity," said Circelli on his new job. "[It's] Something I've been working towards [for] the last 10 years, specifically the last five when I stopped coaching high school football to coach at the university level. It's an opportunity I've been looking for and was pushed by my mentor Greg Marshall to apply for it, and you can't pass up a job like this."
Circelli's successful track record will be challenged at Windsor, however, as the program went 6–26 over the last four seasons and has recorded just three winning records over the last 18 years. Windsor athletic director Mike Havey hopes Circelli can be the one to bring sustained, consistent success to Lancer football.
"I am thrilled to welcome Circelli and his family to the University of Windsor," said Havey. "[Circelli] is a passionate coach and leader, and he is very highly regarded in the football community. He has been successful at every level at which he has coached or played, and he has had championship level success throughout his coaching career. We look forward to seeing Coach Circelli lead our football program forward in the years ahead."
And while the program has struggled to compete in a loaded Ontario University Athletics conference, there is potential for success in Windsor. It's one of province's most fertile football recruiting grounds, populated by elite high school football programs and top-tier youth football organizations. Now it's up to Circelli to forge bonds with local high school coaches and players to keep the best players in the city and Essex County at home.
"There is a lot of good football being played in Windsor, so [at] the end of the day, it's about building relationships," said Circelli. "If they see you're serious in your area, they see you at practices and games; you can build those relationships. And then building a championship program, people sharing that vision and believing that vision allows you to build a culture and a winning program."
Circelli's departure from Western marks another staff loss for Marshall and the Mustangs: former offensive coordinator Steve Snyder took the head coaching gig at Queen's University and recruiting coordinator Joe Circelli will join his brother's staff in Windsor as its new offensive coordinator.
After a 23–1 record, back-to-back Yates Cup titles and a Vanier Cup championship over the last two seasons, Mustangs coaches are a hot commodity in the university football ranks. It's a testament to the consistent winning culture Marshall has built in London.
"Greg taught me to control what you can control," Circelli said of his former boss. "You put in work developing players, breaking down film, and that's what you can control. But you can't control weather, officials. So do everything that you can control and then you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and know you did what you could to succeed."
Circelli will face Marshall for the first time as a head coach on Sept. 28, 2019 at Windsor's Alumni Field.