Siena Heights University to Begin Football Program

Jim Lyall Hired as First Head Coach; Saints Become First Catholic College or University in Michigan to Offer Football Scholarships



Siena Heights University announced May 3, 2010, that it is beginning a football program. Pictured are (from left) President Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, Halo and new head football coach Jim Lyall.




After completing a thorough five-month exploration process, Siena Heights University announced it is starting intercollegiate football that will begin play in fall 2011.


“This is a historic and significant day in the history of Siena Heights University,” said SHU President Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, who made the announcement at an on-campus press conference May 3, 2010. “The decision to explore football was a very comprehensive and collaborative effort. We first asked if football fit the mission of Siena Heights University, because this is not just about athletics, but expanding the mission of this institution. We believe that football will not only give opportunities to a new group of students at Siena Heights, but will help build community, which is what we are all about.”helmet-main.jpg


President Albert said the decision was made to move forward with football based on the recommendation of the Football Task Force she established in January. The task force was led by SHU Athletic Director Fred Smith and included SHU faculty, staff and students as well as board members and members of the community. This task force gathered extensive information, including how football would impact the athletic, academic, financial and student life areas of SHU. After this information was compiled and presented, the SHU Board of Trustees met May 1, 2010, and approved the plan to begin football, which was the final step in the approval process.


“Adding football at Siena Heights has been talked about for years, but this was the right time for us,” Smith said. “I was impressed by the way our community came together and looked at all the factors involved in this decision, which were many. I would especially like to thank all those who were involved in the process. I am thrilled to have helped lead this exploration process and believe football will enhance the university as well as our athletic program.”


Siena Heights also introduced the coach who will begin Siena Heights’ football tradition. Veteran coach Jim Lyall was introduced as Siena Heights’ first head coach. With more than 20 years as a college head coach as well as being a former player at the University of Michigan under the late legendary coach Bo Schembechler, Lyall will bring his combination of leadership, experience and character to Siena Heights, according to Smith.jim-lyall2.jpg


“We couldn’t have asked for a better person to lead our football program,” he said. “We wanted someone who understood not only how to run a college football program, but could build it the right way. We want success both on and off the field, and Jim will accomplish that for us at Siena Heights.”


“Since the very first day I came over and interviewed with Sister Peg, her focus is on the students here at Siena,” said Lyall, who served as a consultant during the exploration process. “Everything she does is pointed in that direction. How do we make the mission come alive here? How are we going to affect these young men and young women at Siena Heights for really the rest of their lives. … Having the opportunity to talk with Sister Peg, I know how important the mission is to Siena Heights University and that a program could be built around that whole idea of helping young men become competent, giving them purpose, meaning in their lives. And teaching and modeling ethical behavior. That has to be the foundation of the program.”


Lyall said he and new offensive/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hancock will begin recruiting student-athletes immediately. The Saints, who will become the only Catholic college or university in Michigan to offer football scholarships, will play a junior varsity schedule beginning in fall 2011. SHU has applied for membership in the Mid-States Football Conference, one of the top NAIA conferences in the country. If accepted, Siena Heights will begin conference play in 2012.


“We need to have young men who understand the whole meaning of character and integrity,” Lyall said. “Because we don’t have any senior leadership right now, it’s going to be important for us to recruit a certain type of student-athlete. We’re going to target captains. We’re going to going to target players from programs that have been successful.”


The Saints will also compete on a new, on-campus, artificial grass outdoor performance stadium that is expected to be completed by the start of the 2011 season.


“We want to be an attacking offense, defense as well as special teams,” Lyall said of the style of football he plans to bring to SHU. “The coaching staff that we are going to be able to assemble, the aggregate knowledge is going to be phenomenal. … The ball will be in the air. It will be high-paced and it will be an exciting brand of football.”


For more information about Siena Heights football, please call 517-264-7870. More details can also be found by visiting the web site at

Siena Heights Announces Football Program
Part 1

Fred Smith
(Athletic Director)

Siena Heights Announces Football Program
Part 2

Sister Peg Albert, OP, Ph.D.
(Siena Heights University President)

Siena Heights Announces Football Program
Part 3

James Lyall
(Head Football Coach)


Meet Siena


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Gilius Blinstrubas

Business major, Entrepreneur, Adrian Campus

Faculty & Staff

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Gail A. Ryder

Associate Professor of Humanities


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Bobby Hopewell '96

Public Services Graduate; Kellogg Community College Center; Health Care Administrator; Mayor of Kalamazoo