James Willis changes his mind, says he’ll stay at UL-Lafayette

One day after telling the Ragin’ Cajuns players he was leaving to accept an assistant coaching position at another university, James Willis reversed his decision and decided to remain as defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth made the announcement Thursday.

“My decision to leave the Ragin’ Cajuns program has weighed heavily on me since I announced my decision to the players last night,” Willis said in a university release. “After some soul-searching over night, I spoke with coach Hudspeth earlier today about this, and he invited me to remain with the Cajuns.

“It was hard to tell that group of young men, who just 12 months earlier had welcomed me into the program, that I was leaving. I could see the disappointment in their eyes when we talked. We asked them to buy into the system that we were teaching and the result was a Sun Belt Conference title.

“After thinking about things further, I feel I owe the players more than just one season after they responded so well to our philosophy. Professionally, I believe it is in my best interest of my coaching career to remain a coordinator instead of stepping back to become a position coach.”

In his first season with the Cajuns, Willis oversaw a young defense that improved from eighth in the Sun Belt in total defense in 2012 to third in 2013, helping the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9-4 record and the first league title since 2005.

“We are excited to welcome coach Willis back,” Hudspeth said. “Continuity on a coaching staff, and especially among our coordinators, is important. With spring practice just a month away, we can now continue working on improving what we have already built.

“I was pleased with the development of the defense last year. With nine starters back and another year in this system, I look forward to even greater improvement.”

Spring practice begins March 11 at UL-Lafayette. The spring game is slated for April 22.