The Canadian Football League, and European League of Football find themselves well represented in the coaching ranks in the USFL. Specifically finding several former coaches landing as head coaches or coordinators. This displays just how highly respected the CFL is in terms of level of play versus other leagues, like The Spring League that saw just 1 coach hired Larry Kirksey, from the league despite it’s ties to Brian Woods and the USFL.
Ironically enough the head coach that spent the least amount of time north of the border of the three, Bart Andrus, finds himself building a staff that included the most former CFL coaches of any team in the league. He has brought in 2 prominent coaches on his staff that have experience in the Canadian game.
Andrus has guys with CFL or ELF experience on his staff on offense and defense. He has not named an offensive coordinator and will instead serve in that role himself. However he did bring in Marcel Bellefeuille, and 2021 ELF OL coach Jeff Jagodzinski.
Jeff Jagodzinski has previously worked with Bart Andrus, a theme Andrus has kept with his roster, and his coaching staff to this point. During the short stint of the United Football League, Andrus and Jago, had teamed up wo help coach my favorite team; the Omaha Nighthawks. However it was short lived being that the league folded midseason after promoting Andrus to head coach. Jago would find himself spending time in the European League of Football as well with the Wroclaw Panthers. I believe he is actually the only coach with ELF and not NFLEL experience….yes folks the two leagues are not one in the same.
The next name on this list is Marcel Bellefueille who will be coaching wide receivers for the Stars. He has spent time with several different franchises. Including Montreal, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, and BC. He spent a total of over 20 years in the CFL as an offensive coordinator and head coach along the way. He also served as the head coach of Ottawa University, a school that also finds itself with two of it’s former staff members in the USFL as well.
On defense Andrus is trusting Brad Miller to coordinate his defense. He is another well travelled CFL coach with a resume that includes stints with Edmonton, Montreal, Saskatchewan, and Hamilton. Miller is actually the other former member of the Ottawa University coaching staff., but he also spent time at University of Toronto. He is a staple in the Canadian coaching world much like Bellefueille allow ironically their times with the school were separated by nearly 20 years.
Moving on to the most successful former CFL coach, Mike Riley, I was surprised to see him tap just one former Canadian Football League coach. Kind of the exact opposite of the approach Andrus took despite his short time with the CFL.
However the man Riley brought in was Chris Dishman. Dishman is a name that NFL fans will certainly recognize as a former player, and coach in the biggest football league on the planet. He also spent time with the Montreal Alouettes, he is another former NFLEL coach on this list having spent time coaching the Berlin Thunder. He also spent some time in the XFL with the New York Guardians. He lands under a coach that has overseen a team in nearly every spring football league since the early 90’s.
In Tampa Bay under former NFL scout and coach Todd Haley who has no CFL experience on his resume, we see two former CFL guys land on the staff. Frank Gansz Jr. has been hired to serve as the TE coach, and coordinate special teams. He most recently spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as the special teams coordinator in 2018 and 2019. Has been coaching special teams since the early 90’s at the collegiate level. Spent time at the NFL level as well.
Also joining the Tampa Bay Bandits is Pat Perles who will be serving as the offensive line coach. He was a long time CFL coach up to this point. He had stints with Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and Hamilton. He also went to back-to-back Grey Cup championship in his only two seasons with Hamilton, winning one and losing one. He coached in the CFL for 5 seasons before moving on to coach at the college level. He would return to the CFL in 2014 with Toronto, as far as I can tell he has been out of coaching since then, having stepped away from Toronto for personal reasons.
The final team to hire former CFL coaches as assistants was Birmingham. The Stallions under head coach Skip Holtz, hired DB coach Corey Chamblin, and OL coach Jonathan Himebauch. Birmingham will actually welcome New Jersey and Mike Riley week 1 for the first ever game in the USFL on April 16th.
Jonathan Himebauch has spent time with Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, and Toronto. He also saw stints with the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders in 2019, and XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers before landing in my home state of Colorado as the TE coach with the Air Force Academy. His most recent CFL stop was back in Toronto from 2017-2018 when he served as the OL coach and assistant head coach on a team that he had once played for nearly 20 years prior. He would win 3 Grey Cups in his time with Winnipeg and Toronto.
On defense Corey Chamblin brings CFL experience with Toronto, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Calgary, and Winnipeg. Chamblin brings another coach with Grey Cup wins under his belt. In 2008, his first of three seasons, with Calgary as their DB coach. In 2013 in his second of three seasons as head coach for Saskatchewan when he also won Coach of the Year. His third victory came in 2017 as the DB coach/Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach for Toronto. After the Grey Cup victory in 2017 he spent 1 season at the college level before he found himself back with Toronto this time replacing former head coach Marc Trestman (Check out my YouTube Channel for an upcoming interview with Trestman) who was fired following the 2018 season.
Also representing the European Game in the USFL are:
OC Steve Smith who spent time with the Rhein Fire, and Frankfurt Galaxy
DC Chris Dishman who spent time with the Berlin Thunder
DB Corey Chamblin who coached with Frankfurt
CB/STC Martin Bayless spent time with Barcelona, and Amsterdam
and Jeff Jagodzinski as mentioned above.
With 3 head coaches having ties to the CFL, as well as 8 assistant coaches, spread across 4 teams, you can see the respect the CFL garners by other leagues. Add in the fact that the USFL has also hired 3 guys not named on this list with a background in the NFLEL or ELF, and you can see the game is growing on a worldwide level at this point with the European and Canadian games truly garnering the respect they deserve.
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