Head football coach steps down for Army position

Former SVSU head football coach Jim Collins leads his team onto the field during a home game against Truman. Collins announced last month that he will be stepping down from the head coaching position at SVSU to pursue a head coaching position for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Vanguard Photo | Kyle Will

After 11 seasons with the Cardinal football program, head coach Jim Collins resigned on Feb. 25. He will be joining a Division I program with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Collins joined SVSU in 2008. His overall record was 65-56, with a 58-49 record in GLIAC play.

Athletic Director John Decker was surprised by Collins’ resignation.

“(Collins’ leaving) came as a surprise, quite frankly, because of the fact that we had a very good season last year,” he said. “The games we lost were ones that we were very competitive in and that we felt every one of them we could have won with a few breaks. More than that, there is a solid, deep core of returning players who are going to be here next season.”

Decker said that Collins’ time at SVSU will be remembered fondly.

“(Collins’) legacy in terms of the academic performance of his teams and what he did to contribute to that is going to be a good memory for the institution,” he said.

Collins said that he will remember each year he coached.

“All 11 years have been special,” Collins said. “The 2011-2013 teams had a lot of talent and won a lot of big games. Even though there was a lot of carryover with the personnel, all three of those teams had different personalities. The one big thing that they did have in common was that competitive drive.”

Collins led the Cardinals to three playoff appearances in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and three straight GLIAC Division North Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In his final season in 2018, the Cardinals went 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the GLIAC.

Collins said that the 2008-2009 teams “will always have a special place in (his) heart.”

“That was tough on those players to deal with a coaching change in the middle of their careers, and the way they responded to a new staff is a testament to their leadership and character,” he said.

He said that the current team is also a special group.

“Last year’s senior class did a great job of leading, and the result was a pretty good season,” he said. “This year’s upperclassmen are going to get called on in a special way. They have to be like the 2008-2009 group and embrace change, stay together and go out and win like I know they can.”

Collins also shared some of the key points that he has focused on as a coach.

“There are three things I focused on with our team,” Collins said. “First of all, try to be the best person you can be, treat everyone with respect and be accountable for everything that you do. I was always more proud of our players when someone would come to me and comment on what a good group of people they are.”

He expected his players to “do things better than they did the day before.”

“This focus on constant improvement was the key ingredient to getting our program turned around after two really tough seasons,” he said.

Collins also focused on making sure his players knew there was going to be adversity in the field.

“The way they fought through the adversity was going to be the key to success as opposed to failure,” he said. “This is what we call grit.”

J.J. Boehm, the director of media and community relations, covered all 11 of Collins’ seasons as the play-by-play broadcaster for
the team.

“Coach Collins emphasized priorities such as personal character and competing in the classroom that will benefit current and former SVSU football players in their lives and careers,” he said. “I have spoken with a number of football alumni who appreciate the lessons they learned here, even if in some cases those lessons were not fully realized until years later.”

Boehm said that Collins left the team in good shape for the future.

“He leaves the program in a good position both in terms of the values he worked to instill,and in terms of personnel,” he said. “The 2018 team finished 8-3 with a relatively small senior class, meaning that most of the team’s top contributors are returning for 2019.”

Reflecting on his years at SVSU, Collins said he will miss the people that he’s been surrounded by during his time as a Cardinal.

“I was fortunate to work for, work with, coach and develop relationships with a remarkable group of people,” Collins said. “I will forever cherish that, and with today’s technology, it will be easy to stay in touch.”

Decker was impressed with Collins’ work ethic at SVSU.

“(Collins) was the person who designed and called all of the offensive plays for the team for several years, so he really wore two hats,” he said. “He was the head coach and the offensive coordinator at the same time, which is a heavy responsibility.”

Decker said that Collins handled having both roles well.

“The way that he carried that out was with a great deal of class, and I think that SVSU should be proud to have had someone with the kind of personal characteristics – good person, fair and really a student of the game – to be our coach for the 11 years that he was here,” he said.

Decker said several coaches have already expressed interest in taking over for Collins.

“There are coaches from literally all over the country who are interested in this job and want to come in and coach this team next year,” he said. “This amount of interest points out the fact that (Collins) has left the program in very good shape.”


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