Football community mourns the loss of iconic builder

Left to right: Darwin Semotiuk, Greg Marshall, Larry Haylor. --Photo from University of Western Ontario Mustangs.

The Canadian university football world lost a trailblazer on Jan. 6 when two-time Vanier Cup winning coach and former Prince Albert resident Larry Haylor passed away of a heart attack at the age of 76.

Haylor was born and raised in Prince Albert, but his football career started down the road in Saskatoon. He quarterbacked the U of S Huskies from 1966 to 1970 before moving on to coaching.

He is best remembered for being the head coach of the University of Western Ontario Mustangs from 1984 to 2006. He retired as the all time leader in head coaching victories in U Sports, winning the Vanier Cup with the Mustangs in 1989 and 1994.

Brian Towriss, who later passed Haylor in all time wins, had a special relationship with the Prince Albert product. Coaching at the same time with the U of S Huskies, Towriss says Haylor was on another level when it came to football.

“Our careers kind of paralleled each other after he left Saskatchewan,” Towriss said. “I got to know him better when he went to coach the Mustangs, which was the same year that I became the coach for the Huskies.

“He had an outstanding career. He carried on a tradition of a great football program in Western Ontario. He inherited an outstanding program and took it to another level. Larry was a highly regarded and very well respected coach for a lot of years up until his retirement.”

Former Carlton Comprehensive High School football coach Bob Coffin was a player while Haylor was an assistant coach with the Huskies, before he left for his coaching job at Western. Coffin said it was easy for him to adjust to University football with Haylor helping him along.

“Larry was an outstanding athlete and team leader,” Coffin said. “I played for him in 1971 to 1973 when he was an assistant coach. He was smart and very team oriented. When I came in, I came from playing six man football. In some cases, you’re welcome onto a team, and in other cases you aren’t. Larry was one of the guys that made me feel at home right away.”

While they didn’t stay in touch as much after Haylor moved to Ontario, Coffin still remembers the legacy Haylor created.

“He really dedicated his time to football and the University as a whole,” Coffin said. “He left a pretty good legacy there not only with football, but with the student athletes as well. You can’t say enough about him.”

During his tenure with the Mustangs, Haylor led the team to 185 wins. He also won eight Yates Cup championships to go along with his two Vanier Cup wins, and was named coach of the year seven times by the Ontario University Athletics Association. He was also a two time winner of the Frank Tindall Trophy as the U Sports football coach of the year.

The Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame inducted Haylor as a builder in 2009. He was later inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

“He was a tremendous competitor,” Towriss said. “He was a cerebral coach and was always on the leading edge of the game. He was a builder who had a large influence on programs through his involvement with football Canada as well. We lost a great coach and a very respected individual.”

Greg Marshall, who took the over for Haylor as head coach when the latter retired, says Haylor was a compassionate man.

“Larry was always there for me,” Marshall said. “When I decided to retire from pro football, he was the first one to call to ask me to come back and coach with him. When I was fired by the Hamilton Tiger Cats, it was Larry calling to say he’d like me to take over as head coach at Western.

“He was so much more than a successful football coach. He was a caring, giving man that made a positive impact on the young men he coached.”

In addition to his coaching legacy, Haylor made significant contributions to Western’s academic side. He joined the Faculty of Physical Education in 1975 as a lecturer and later became an associate professor. He taught in the areas of coaching, leadership, growth, and development. He was active in the classroom until he retired in 2011.

Former Mustangs coach Darwin Semotiuk passed away just two days before Haylor, on Jan. 4th.  Semotiuk  also led the Mustangs to two Vanier Cup championships before passing the torch to Haylor.

“We know how much he was loved by all those that had the pleasure to know him, and we know the memories and his legacy will live on,” the Haylor family said in a statement. “We take comfort in knowing that he and Darwin are together at this time as they started their journey at Western together. Larry will be missed deeply, and we hope the memories we all have of him will help us get through this difficult time.”