Kevin Cahill addressing team huddle

New Lehigh football head coach Kevin Cahill addresses his players after the Brown and White spring game.

New Football Coach Kevin Cahill Focusing on 'The Lehigh Way'

The head coach, who most recently served as associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Yale, looks to build a new culture within the program.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Douglas Benedict/Academic Image

Inside the Cundey Varsity House, as he was introduced as the 30th head coach in program history, Kevin Cahill said culture was going to be a driving force in how he wants to run Lehigh football.

Throughout the collegiate and professional sports ranks, culture has become a buzzword. But what exactly does that mean for Cahill and Lehigh?

“It’s a developmental program,” Cahill said in his office shortly after Lehigh’s Brown and White spring football game. “Obviously we’re going to coach football, but we’re trying to develop our kids on and off the field to be the best they can be.”

Cahill is having players live their lives “the Lehigh Way”—focusing on both their academics and athletics, learning from alumni who can convey how their time at Lehigh helped impact their lives and careers, and understanding that “Lehigh is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Kevin Cahill interacts with Lehigh players

New Lehigh football coach Kevin Cahill spent the past decade at Yale, most recently as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

But a lot of the culture-building comes down to Cahill himself. After Cahill, who spent the past decade at Yale, most recently as associate head coach and offensive coordinator, arrived at Lehigh in December, he had some extra time on his hands prior to his family making the move. He ate breakfast and dinner with the team and even hung out with them in the weight room.

Players, such as wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel ’26, the 2022 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, noticed.

“Team culture has definitely been shifted in a positive direction ever since the first day Coach Cahill stepped foot on campus,” Jamiel said. “It’s something that he’s talked about with each of us individually and as an entire team—things like eating meals with one another, giving back to the community in different ways of service, the way we practice and the way we carry ourselves amongst our peers on campus.”

Every conversation at the dinner table with the coach seemed genuine, Jamiel said.

“You got the feeling that he cares about every single player and who we are as people, not just as football players,” he said.

Community Connection

In addition to building relationships with players and getting alumni more involved, Cahill wants to connect with the Lehigh Valley community. This spring’s Brown and White game saw changes that Cahill said made it more fun and fan friendly. In addition to continuing to assess the talent of his players, competitions such as for kicking and catching were added.

Cahill believes a stronger relationship with the community might also translate to an increase in attendance at games, which would give the program an advantage.

“We want people in the stands, we want to have the home field advantage, we want Goodman to be rocking,” Cahill said, likening it to the atmosphere in the late 1990s-early 2000s when Lehigh made four straight FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) playoff appearances and won a Lambert Cup Championship. “Yes, it will be that way for the last game of the year when we play it at home [against Lafayette], but we also want it to be that way when we’re playing a different opponent that comes in here and make it a hard place to play.”

We want people in the stands, we want to have the home field advantage, we want Goodman to be rocking.

Lehigh football coach Kevin Cahill

Cahill acknowledged there are no quick fixes. It will take time to build Lehigh football back to what it once was, especially for a program that, despite winning its last Patriot League Championship in 2017, has not experienced a winning season since 2016.

Its first test on Sept. 2—against Villanova—will not make it any easier. Cahill referred to Villanova as a “perennial powerhouse,” but he welcomes the challenge. Part of the reason is because the team is a model of what he envisions for Lehigh football.

Geoffrey Jamiel

Wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel ’26, the 2022 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, has already noticed the shift in culture under head coach Kevin Cahill.

“I look at Villanova as a program that you want to replicate,” Cahill said. “It’s a team that has won national championships, has been in the playoffs numerous times. ... It’s an in-state, FCS school with high academics. Why can’t we be Villanova? Why can’t we be to that level? We have been and we were, we have to get back to that.”

Through a new culture, and recruiting the best football players who are also academically driven, Cahill believes Lehigh can become the program it once was, a program viewed as Villanova is now.

“You want people to look at [their schedule and] say, ‘Oh, man. We’ve got to open up against Lehigh,’” Cahill said.

Cahill’s focus for the 2023 season isn’t a win total. It’s seeing his team be competitive and tough, and play smart. If that happens, he said, a lot of the games the team has been losing in the fourth quarter will become wins. The players have already begun to eliminate mental mistakes, some that led to penalties last year, and have been working on their attention to detail, he said. Cahill believes progress has been made.

Note: The location of The Rivalry games in 2024 and 2025 have changed. For more information, click here.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Douglas Benedict/Academic Image

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