Brandon Harris has left Canisius football program after four seasons.
Harris obviously raised the level of play for the Canisius program while his connections to college football recruiting resulted in several Crusaders going on to play in college, including many at major Division I schools (James Gaines to the University of Miami and John Urschel to Penn State are probably the best examples; both players credited coach Harris for aiding their recruitment).
Actually, with his background as a top assistant coach in Arizona (Brophy Prep), I always thought Harris wouldn't be around for too long. His credentials spoke for themselves and he struck me as a fish out of water of sorts. Western New York -- and certainly New York overall -- is not exactly a hotbed for high school football in comparison with many other areas of the country. This was an opportunity for Harris to be a head coach at a region's top high school and turn the football program around, which is exactly what he did, and that would help him to other coaching opportunities.
There are those who will point to players transferring to Canisius as being part of his legacy. It's impossible for it not to come to mind when you think back on the last four seasons. Gaines (from Williamsville North) and Ricky Pringle (from St. Joe's) were key players who transferred in. Two-year starting quarterback Travis Eman (who has signed with Furman) and this past season's starting running back, junior Mercer Timmis, as well as last season's backup quarterback, Chris Jugovic, are all Canadians who enrolled at Canisius.
As always with transferring, that's up to the player and his family -- even if you feel compelled to throw the R-word around (that's recruiting, for those who haven't visited our live chats), it's not like people are forced to transfer. It also should be noted that it isn't the first time transfers have come to Western New York from Canada (one of St. Joe's all-time greats is Canadian Sandro D'Angelis) and that standout running back Akeel Lynch is one of several Canadians who have recently transferred to St. Francis.
And you can't argue the results Harris produced. Canisius won on the field while the legacy of players moving to the next level is a significant one. Here's a great example: Gaines, who signed with Miami with Harris' help, is doing more than fine. New Miami coach Al Golden has Gaines at No. 1 on the depth chart at middle linebacker in spring practice, according to the allcanes.com blog.
Seems to me that Canisius got what it wanted when it brought in a coach of Harris' caliber to the area. The program was re-energized by his approach -- and the winning seasons. There was a bar-raising of expectations and commitment -- including a preseason training camp in which players stayed overnight at the school.
And I can't think that Canisius expected Harris to be a life-long Crusader either.
It will be interesting where the Canisius program goes from here. Two of the men who were integral in the decision to bring Harris to Canisius from Arizona -- he credited Fr. Jim Higgins and Paul Koessler in his statement to The News -- have both passed away. The move to bring in a coach from out of town was an unusual one, and one that paid off, but I'm not sure we'll see that kind of hire again.