The Mike Morencie era in Windsor is all but over. But it almost lasted yet another year.
Multiple sources close to Lancers football said the head coach was to ask - some sources had said he had already asked - the Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA), which represents the ancillary staff member, to grieve the terms of his current four-year contract, which is set to officially expire June 30, 2011.
Morencie admitted Tuesday on the record that he "discussed" with union officials the possibility of the union filing a grievance on his behalf but he found "it just wouldn't be prudent."
"I had my kick at the can ... the bottom line is we didn't win," said Morencie, who just wrapped his 13th season with a 2-6 win.
Morencie is 34-68-1 with one winning season and one playoff win in his career.
Still, Morencie did say he "had a case" to grieve but reiterated he will not. Morencie said he never filed a grievance, has no intention of doing so and that the option was only briefly discussed.
If the union had filed a grievance on Morencie's behalf, the union would have argued Morencie is entitled to a five-year, not four-year, contract.
Morencie first signed as head coach in late 1997 when he replaced John Mussleman shortly after the season ended. It was nearly a five-year deal that expired June 30, 2002.
Joanne MacLean, who was Windsor athletic director in 2002, signed Morencie to another five-year deal despite the fact Morencie went 7-32-1 during his first four years as head coach. Not long after MacLean inked Morencie, she left Windsor and left Morencie and his albatross of a contract for Gord Grace to deal with.
Morencie, with the help of All-Canadian running back and Hec Crighton winner Daryl Stephenson, went 6-2 in 2006. It was Windsor's best season under Morencie.
After the rare successful season, Grace had no choice but to sign Morencie to an extension. And he did, to a four-year deal that expires June 30, 2011. The thought, sources say, was to keep Morencie on a short leash but one long enough to extend trhoughout a 2007 recruit's four-year OUA career.
The Lancers went 9-23 during the contract. The Lancers beat York or Toronto for eight of those victories and lost to fellow bottom feeder Waterloo four consecutive years. Windsor went 2-6 this season. And missed they playoffs.
According to article 12:24 of the collective agreement between the WUFA and the Board of Governors of the University of Windsor:
Initial appointment to ancillary academic staff (AAS) positions shall be probationary for a period of six (6) months, at which time, on the recommendation of the AAS Committee, the appointment will be terminated forthwith or confirmed. In the case of appointments to athletic coaching positions, appointees will be subject to renewal annually by the Board of Governors on the recommendation of the President, in accordance with clause 13:24 for a period of three (3) years, after which reappointments will be renewable for periods of two (2) to five (5) years (the length of the appointment to be determined by the President after consultations with the AAS Committee). When the AAS Committee recommends non-renewal of the appointment of an athletic coach, the incumbent will receive one (1) month's notice of termination for each year of service, or payment in lieu of such notice, up to a maximum of twelve (12) months for twelve (12) years of service and longer.
Article 13:24 reads:
Before deciding upon the confirmation or renewal of appointment or promotion for ancillary academic staff members, the President shall consider recommendations made by the AAS Committee of the relevant AAU with respect to each candidate.
The union would have had to argue Morencie was entitled to a five-year deal. However, article 12:24 clearly reads he — or anyone in a similar ancillary position — was entitled to a contract "for periods of two (2) to five (5) years" and not definitively or arbitrarly five years.
The union could argue "past practice" was to grant the head football coach five-year contracts. After all, Morencie received consecutive five-year deals before Grace offered him the four-year deal, which Morencie signed at the time and presumably did not grieve in 2007.
A past practice grievance is sometimes difficult to win. The union will need to be able to prove the practice continued in a single form over a lengthy period of time. It would help Morencie's cause if Windsor brass has always offered five-year contracts to all coaches. And it would further support Morencie if he is the only current coach not signed to a five-year term.
However, Morencie and the union could have been hamstrung by the fact the contract presumably wasn't contested at the time of signing in 2007.
Morencie on Tuesday sounded resigned to the fact his time at Windsor is over.
"But I'm not running up to anyone's office to resign," Morencie said.
As per his contract, he's entitled to at least payment until June 30, 2011.
"We eat our own in this business," Morencie continued. "We worked our ass off here and didn't get it done in terms of wins and losses. And they keep score in this business.
"How many times do coaches get to walk off the field a winner for the last time and ride off into the sunset? Not many."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A PDF version of the collective agreement can be found here