Jason Cauley, the man tabbed to be the next Thomas More Prep-Marian football coach, hosted a pair of meetings at the school Thursday to start the introduction process before digging into the Xs and Os in the coming weeks.
It was probably necessary, as Cauley, a former college quarterback, plans to make some significant changes to the program.
He met with a group of young men interested in playing football this fall in the morning before another meeting with parents and Monarch supporters in the school’s auditorium in the evening. At the later meeting, the Alabama native passionately detailed his plans for the Monarch program on and off the field.
Huddles appear to be a thing of the past when TMP has the ball, and he wants to have an attacking defense that keeps opposing offenses off balance. He also plans to regiment the practices into shorter sessions to maximize efficiency and keep players engaged.
“They know something’s different, so I think that’s giving them something to look forward to,” Cauley said of the kids he met with in the morning.
Although he’s only been in town for a short time and he’s tasked with rebuilding a program that won one game in the past two years, Cauley sounds excited to be in Hays after previously coaching in Hawaii.
He also considered a position in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and another at Huntington College, but after praying over the decision with his family and a closer look at what the schools provided, Hays was the choice.
“Absolutely beautiful...the school,” Cauley said. “It looked like a castle, man. I was like ‘Let me look at the curriculum, let me see what they believe, what they teach.’ I was impressed automatically and it got me interested in learning a little bit about the community.”
When he looked into the community, he grew fonder of the fit. His wife, a sous chef, has experience in the culinary industry. Cauley’s already visited Gutch’s and Gella’s, giving both positive reviews. Additionally, Cauley liked that he could get his two kids into private schools.
Hays also provided something his previous stops or other potential destinations couldn’t provide.
“We didn’t get snow in Hawaii; we don’t get snow in Alabama, so he’s never seen that before,” Cauley said of his oldest, Liam.
While an opportunity to get into the college ranks would’ve tempted other coaches, the armed services veteran prefers the prep ranks.
“I’m a high school coach. I like developing a relationship with the young kids where you can actually have an impact on their lives,” Cauley said.
“I feel like I can have a strong impact with high school kids. That’s what I want to do.”
When he spoke to parents and TMP supporters, accountability was a recurring theme. He said he has no qualms about holding athletes out of practice or games if academic or other issues arise, regardless of ability. He later added he wasn’t concerned with having to sit many kids out with academic issues at the college-prep institution.
Winning games might be a bigger challenge, but he plans to take a patient approach as he plans to implement a different system than what the Monarchs utilized a year ago.
“This is a long-term process. It’s not a ‘Hey, we gotta win this many games right now.’ We gotta develop a winning culture,” Cauley said.
“Developing a program is going to take more than just a few months, and I understand that.”
One of the keys to improving the on-field product will be getting the Monarchs’ top athletes on the football field. A number of TMP’s recently graduated seniors that were big parts of other successful teams were not on the football roster, and Cauley hopes to increase his team’s numbers by building some excitement around the program.
“I’m impressed. The kids are eager. They want to win. They’re very hungry. They want something different,” Cauley said.
“They’re having fun. I’m impressed with what I see, and it seems like more people are showing up every single day.”
The new coach wasted little time getting familiar with some of TMP’s future opponents, including defending state champion Phillipsburg and traditional power Norton. He name dropped Jace Ruder, Norton’s gifted quarterback that already has garnered a handful of Division I offers heading into his junior year. The difficulty of the job doesn’t seem to phase the offensive guru who led a rebuild at some of his previous stops.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cauley said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m ready to lead that charge and see what we can do with it.”
Cauley will replace John Montgomery, who left Hays for a job in McPherson after six season with the Monarchs. A new athletic director, Troy Schulte, also will be in the fold after Gene Flax moved on to Russell this spring.