W&L alumnus takes over football program

Garrett LeRose has previously played and coached at W&L


Garrett LeRose. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info

Elly Cosgrove, Sports Writer

Garrett LeRose has been named head coach of the Washington and Lee football team after a nationwide search. He has over a decade-long history serving in the Washington and Lee football program, first as a player and then as an assistant coach.

W&L Athletics Director Jan Hathorn made the announcement in mid-February.

“I will say in the end it was not an easy decision. It was extremely difficult,” Hathorn said. “We had really good applicants.”

Hathorn said there were 96 candidates that applied for the position. Like every search for a faculty head coach, Hathorn formed a search committee that read through every application. The pool of 96 was narrowed down to around 10 candidates. Of that smaller pool, only four received on-campus interviews.

“As an alum he’s very passionate about Washington and Lee and it came through in his interview,” Hathorn said. “He stood out when it comes to the fact that as a player and as a coach we’ve been really good when he’s been a part of our program.”

LeRose was a four-year letter winner as a quarterback, halfback and wide receiver. He was hired on staff in 2008 as a coach for tight ends and wide receivers, after having served as a student assistant coach in 2007. Through the years, he has been able to watch the program grow.

“My experience having come from a program that [had a record of] 3 and 7 my freshman year here to where we are now as a program over a 15-year span has given me the perspective of how do we do that, how do we build that and how can I continue to build on that foundation taking us to the next level,” LeRose said.

By “next level,” he said he means establishing the program as a national contender in NCAA division III athletics.

“When I first got here, it was kind of taboo to say ODAC championship…now, we’re talking about those national things,” he said. “I think I know who we are and who we want to be and I can kind of continue to project that and continue to grow and take that next step on the national level.”

As a member of the team, Jimmie Mack Johnson, ‘20, got the chance to interview the four prospective candidates who received on-campus interviews. He said he liked LeRose’s vision for the future of the program.

“My vision is we are a perennial top 25 team and that we can make some noise in the playoffs every year,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to make sure whoever we brought in had the same vision as me and what everyone else on the team thinks.”

Johnson also didn’t want defensive or offensive strategy to change

too dramatically under a new head coach.

“I think consistency is really important for a team and program to have and a lot of people are returning so everybody is already buying into the system,” he said. “We run a very specific and unique offensive scheme, but having Coach LeRose, we know we are going to continue to do what we do best and that’s running the ball.”

Hathorn said that this was a contributing factor in the committee’s decision to ultimately choose LeRose.

“And also how they play the game literally—the scheme was another piece,” she said. “You know how we run a triple option from the gun.”

LeRose said things might be changed in order to maximize talent on a yearly basis but that the team’s scheme and strategy will look generally the same.

“When you talk about the base foundations and all the fundamentals behind all that, I see that remaining very consistent with our success,” he said.

With any new position, there will always be challenges. LeRose said the W&L Athletic Department has been set up for success, which will help him overcome any adversity.

“I think when you’re a first time head coach you have to be ready to take on that adversity and lean on those with experience and those around you to help you through that,” he said. “I think we are a very well-supported athletic department, so I think that will make my transition easier.”

LeRose said he hopes to not only further establish the program on a national level but also engage the surrounding community.

“What’s important to me goes beyond the football piece,” he said. “We are a group that is intentional with the ways in which we can serve other people. I think there’s benefit in reaching out and touching base with our core community here and that’s our Rockbridge County community.”

LeRose said he is thrilled about the current roster of players. But most of all, he’s looking ahead to the start of next year’s season.

“The simple answer is Dickinson, game one,” he said when asked what he’s most looking forward to. “As coaches and athletes, as soon as one season ends, it’s that next beginning.”