Matt Jelley, who served as head coach of the cross country team and distance coach of the track & field team, has resigned from Temple, athletic communications confirmed Wednesday morning.
Jelley has accepted a position at the University of Maryland as an assistant coach for the cross country and track & field programs. He will be working under Andrew Valmon, the head coach of the Maryland teams who this summer is coaching the men’s U.S. track and field team for the Olympics. Although Jelley’s official title is “assistant,” the coaching duties for cross country will mostly lie with Jelley.
Jelley was only considered a part-time employee of Temple’s staff, also teaching high school part-time. His desire to concentrate and coach full-time at Temple would have been ideal, but “unfortunately that option wasn’t available,” he said, adding that the decision to leave Temple wasn’t easy.
“It was a very difficult choice,” Jelley said. “When you’re working at a place, and all of the athletes that you’re working with are athletes that you recruited and personally brought to the school, you have a lot invested in it.”
Jelley has been with Temple since 2007, when he was hired as head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams and distance coach for the men’s and women’s track and field teams. His arrival came just two years after the lifting of a 20-year hiatus of Temple’s cross country program, and his presence over the past few seasons has been largely influential in reviving it.
Junior runner Anna Pavone was taken aback at the suddenness of Jelley’s departure from the team, but is glad he is doing what’s best for him.
“I was surprised that he chose to leave because it’s so close to the season, and he just recruited a bunch of incoming freshman,” Pavone said. “But I am happy for him that it’s a better career choice.”
Pavone, who said that Jelley was “always there for them,” also credited him and his training regimen for much of her improvements since her freshman year.
Junior Will Kellar, who was Temple’s fastest runner at last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championships, expected Jelley would move on at some point, but not this soon.
“I figured he’d be leaving in the next couple of years,” Kellar said. “But I didn’t think it would be this short of notice.”
Kellar said communication with Jelley was sometimes tough, but his absence will be felt on the track.
“Him living an hour-and-a-half away from Temple didn’t make [communication] any easier,” Kellar said. “But when he was at practice, and when he was communicating well, he had a really good impact on the team. He’s definitely going to be missed, because he was a great coach.”
Jelley revealed that in his interview five years ago, he said that he wanted to “rewrite the record books.” Among his most impressive accomplishments are back-to-back first place finishes at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships in 2009 and 2010.
His original decision to join the Temple family was not as easy some might think, however.
“I had a lot of people advising me,” Jelley said. “‘Don’t take that job. If you want to coach in Division I, and if you want to get to a good place, that’s going to be a career killer. You can’t do it, because it’s impossible there.'”
Now, Jelley said, when he hears people say the word “impossible”, a favorite quote of his by Walt Disney comes to mind, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Jelley’s replacement has not yet been named. Whoever it is, though, Jelley is confident he’s leaving behind a solid infrastructure for the future.
“There’s a good core of quality athletes,” he said. “This freshman class that they have coming in is really good. So they’ll be okay. Whoever gets this job definitely is getting a class act of talent and people to work with.”
Pavone, while confident in her teammates, is a bit more concerned about their future this year.
“I do think it will be a challenge,” she said. “We have no idea what’s going on. We have no idea who’s going to be the coach. So whoever does coach us this season, he or she is not going to be really familiar with the team. But as long as we stick together, it’ll work out.”
Kellar also predicts difficulties during the upcoming season.
“I haven’t had a coach switch before, so it will definitely be weird for me,” he said. “I feel like for the incoming freshman, who have already started talking to [Jelley] it will be weird for them too. They wanted to be part of the team because of him, and his coaching style.”
Although Jelley is proud of the job he’s done for the cross country teams, he was quick to credit his runners, both past and present, for contributing to the overwhelming improvements the program has seen during his tenure.
“I can only guide,” Jelley said. “It’s really all about the athletes that bought into what I was doing. It’s a testament to all of their hard work. I’m just honored that I was a part of it.”
CORRECTION: The original article stated that of the 26 school records possible at Temple, athletes coached under Jelley hold 21 of them. The statement should have read, “Of the 49 school records for track & field events at Temple, nine of them are held by student-athletes coached during Jelley’s tenure.” The Temple News regrets the error.
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com.