[LOYOLA FOOTBALL] With Sanders Gone, Pedroarias Takes the Helm

Longtime assistant coach Rick Pedroarias was officially hired as the Loyola football team’s new coach in June.

It’s a new day at Loyola, where the football team turns to a familiar face to help chart the next era of the Cubs’ program. Longtime assistant coach Rick Pedroarias was officially hired as the team’s new coach in June, bringing a depth of experience from the heyday of the Cubs’ program.

“He brings to this important position his well-honed leadership skills, an intricate knowledge of football strategy and a deep understanding of Loyola’s mission on and off the field,” athletic director Chris O’Donnell said in a statement.

Pedroarias replaces Marvin Sanders, who took a leave of absence in March. Pedroarias was named the interim coach at that time, then had the “interim” removed three months ago.

“This is my 30th year coaching at Loyola and I played here as well, so it’s been 34 years in this program for me,” said Pedroarias. “I wasn’t looking for this job the whole time but it worked out.”

The Cubs will feature several standout receivers this year including WR/DE Dakota Smith and Alex Johnson, so Pedroarias’ team will come out in the spread and try to put their talented skill players into open spaces. Defensively, the Cubs will run a 3-4 base—perhaps more importantly, there will be a new emphasis on special teams, which cost Loyola a few close games last year.

“We figured special teams isn’t a third of our snaps, it’s maybe 16%,” said Pedroarias. “But it better be a third of our preparation.”

Last year the Cubs went 3-7 but lost four of those games by a combined eight points. Pedroarias thinks a renewed focus on special teams and the details of the game can reverse some of those outcomes right away.

As someone who played at Loyola in the 1980s, he also remembers the school as a football powerhouse. In the last four years under Sanders, the Cubs had just one winning season.

“There’s a lot of people who supported this program over the years, in the last decade or so it kind of swung the other way,” said Pedroarias.

The new coach’s plans include returning the on-field success and helping to make Loyola known for football again the way it’s still known for basketball and volleyball. But as a lifelong Cub he also wants to incorporate the school’s philosophy.

“We still focus on educating the whole student,” he said. “We have tutors for every subject, there’s a spiritual dimension with service projects and team liturgy. This program doesn’t exist by itself — here you’re a Loyola student who plays football, not a football player who goes to Loyola.”

That doesn’t mean Pedroarias doesn’t want to turn the program around and compete at a higher level in the Mission League, of course.

“It’s a lot more fun when you win, we want that too, no doubt,” he said. “But we want to balance that with the mission of the school.”

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