(Edmonton) – Former Eskimo offensive lineman Chris Morris was named the head coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears football team on Tuesday.
A first round draft pick (8th overall) by Edmonton in the 1992 CFL Draft, Morris starred at the University of Toronto where he was a CIS J.P Metras Trophy winner. He cracked the veteran laden Eskimo line-up and was in the starting line-up for the opening game of the ’92 season. He would keep that job for the next 14 years, playing a key role in Edmonton’s Grey Cup titles in 1993, 2003 and 2005. Morris was inducted to the Eskimo Wall of Honour in 2008.
A University of Alberta graduate, Edmonton educator and high school football championship coordinator Chris Morris has been chosen to turn around the University of Alberta Golden Bears football program. He assumes the roles and responsibilities of the head coach for the Golden Bears football program immediately.
“The set of circumstances that exist here at the University of Alberta is what is really appealing to me,” said Morris. “There really is a wealth of talent in Northern Alberta, and a tremendous opportunity to develop the sport of football in the city and province with the Golden Bears program. I‘ve had the pleasure of coaching in the high school ranks for the past five years, so I’ve seen the talent, and know that there is a huge opportunity for the Golden Bears football program to become successful. I’m excited to empower others, to work with people and football organizations to turn this program around and into something that the university deserves and can be proud of.”
Morris, originally from Scarborough, Ont., takes over a program that hasn’t won a Canada West conference title since 1981, and has missed the playoffs in seven of the past 12 seasons while putting together a record of 38-58 (.395), including 0-8 in 2012.
“Sometimes people over complicate success, but what I’ve found, in every phase of my life, is that success comes down to out-working the people you’re in competition with. And I don’t mean the players have to work harder, because it really starts from the top and moves down. If this program is going to become the top program in CIS, then as the head coach of this program, I have to out-work every other CIS head coach. One of the most important jobs I’ll have as head coach is to set the standard, to be the example. Once I’ve done that, then I have to put people in place who can have their hard work pay off so we can be successful together.”
He holds two degrees (bachelor of physical and health education – University of Toronto 1995, and bachelor of education – University of Alberta 1997), is a two-time CIS all-Canadian while playing for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, and he won the J.P. Metras Trophy as the most outstanding down lineman in the country in 1990. He also played in the East-West Shrine Bowl before getting drafted in the first round (8th overall) of the 1992 Canadian Football League draft by the Edmonton Eskimos. He started in his rookie season, and played an additional 14 seasons, or 237 games for the Eskimos. He was a team captain, and he played in five Grey Cup games with the Esks, winning three (1993, 2003 and 2005), and was given a plaque on the Eskimos’ Wall of Honour in Commonwealth Stadium in 2008.
“At the University of Alberta, we expect our coaches to be passionate leaders and educators,” stated Director of Athletics, Ian Reade, PhD. “We expect our coaches to advance the world of sport through student-athlete development, but also through sport development. We believe we have found an individual with the capability to do both. Chris Morris’ accomplishments as a CIS player, as an Edmonton Eskimo and as an Edmonton high school football coach make him a great choice for the Golden Bears football head coach position, but his academic background, his abilities as a leader, motivator and educator, as well as his connections and passion to and for the Alberta football community make him the perfect fit for the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta.”
While still playing in the CFL, Morris became a full-time teacher within Edmonton Public Schools in 1997, earning a provincial teacher of excellence nomination during that time. He ascended to principal in 2009, and as principal of Spruce Avenue Junior High, he turned around the school’s historical Provincial Achievement success rate from 50% to close to 90%, the highest in the history of the school. Morris has also been extremely active with Edmonton and area charities and communities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, since his arrival in 1992.
He has also served as the offensive coordinator of the Harry Ainlay Titans football program, helping the Titans to three city championships, two Northern championships and one provincial championship title over the past four seasons.
“One of the big, most appealing parts of this job is the fact that you’re in one of the very limited and select seats in the province that gets to shepherd football. It’s a unique opportunity to work with the minor football associations, the high school ranks, the Canadian junior teams and the Eskimos in a collaborative model that supports the advancement and development of the sport. It’s a formidable job, but the resounding success that would come from working with all levels of football in the province to develop kids in a sport that can teach them so much, is such a huge benefit to this job,” said Morris.
“The University of Alberta Golden Bears football team cannot be successful unless the other amateur football organizations in the province and the Edmonton Eskimos are all at the table in a coordinated effort to develop football in Edmonton. There are very few jobs that present the kind of opportunity this job presents, but can you imagine how it could be if all those parts came together, for the good of football in Edmonton, and started moving in the same direction?”