A successful head coach at both the international and collegiate levels, Randy Mearns is now in his 19th season leading the Canisius College men’s lacrosse program.
Mearns has enjoyed a number of memorable moments during his career, highlighted by leading the Griffs to two MAAC Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2012.
Most recently, the St. Catharines, Ontario native added a gold medal to his head coaching resume, leading the Canadian National Team to the pinnacle of the sport at 2014 FIL World Championship. Overall, 10 former Griffs participated in the world championship with five joining Mearns on the winning Canadian team.
The success for Mearns, however, isn’t limited to just the three teams he has guided to championships. Among the many bright spots for the 18-year head coach during his tenure guiding his alma mater are:
• Canisius earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 after winning the program’s first MAAC Championship. Canisius posted dominating victories over Manhattan (11-2) and VMI (14-5) en route to the title.
• The Griffs won their second MAAC title in 2012 after posting victories against second-seeded Detroit (12-10) and top-seeded Siena (10-9) to earn the program’s second invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
• Canisius won MAAC regular-season crowns during both the 2006 and 2008 seasons.
• Six Griffs have been selected in the first round of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) Draft after playing for Mearns, including Mark Miyashita – the first overall selection in 2003 after graduating from Canisius. The Griffs were the only school in the country with two first-round selections in the 2011 draft when Adam Jones was taken with the third-overall pick and Dan Coates was selected eighth.
• Three Griffs have been selected in the Major League Lacrosse Draft with Adam Jones (2011), Tim Edwards (2015) and Vince Gravino (2016) each being picked after graduating from Canisius.
• Individual success has become a common theme for Canisius under Mearns’ leadership. Adam Jones became Canisius’ first All-American during the 2008 season, earning the honor from USILA.
• Kevin Ross was the first Griff under Mearns’ guidance to earn an individual accolade, picking up MAAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2006, while Mike Moran was named the MAAC Faceoff Specialist of the Year in 2013. In addition, three Griffs have earned the conference’s Rookie of the Year award.
• Overall, Mearns has led the Griffs to 94 victories and 70 conference wins during his career. In 2014, he led Canisius to the program’s first-ever win against a nationally-ranked school when the Griffs defeated eventual NCAA Quarterfinalist and 13th-ranked Albany.
Mearns has also mentored 35 all-conference performers during his time at Canisius. He guided the Griffs to their first postseason appearance in 2003 when the team earned a trip to the MAAC Tournament. Canisius has now participated in eight tournaments since, winning titles in 2008 and 2012.
In addition to serving as the Canadian National Team head coach for the 2014 World Championship, Mearns was an assistant coach at both the 2006 and 2010 championships with the 2006 squad winning the goal medal. Mearns, who earned induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2008, helped Canada to its first gold-medal finish in 28 years during the 2006 run before leading the team to silver in 2010 and gold once again in 2014.
After helping the Canadian Junior National Team to a silver medal in the 1988 World Championships, Mearns was part of the first Canisius College recruiting class in 1989. Under former head coach Ed Van Tine, Mearns thrived offensively during his three-year stay and currently ranks second in career scoring with 190 points. He still holds the single-season records for points (94) and assists (49) and is the Griffs’ all-time leader in assists (95).
Upon graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Mearns was drafted by the Buffalo Bandits in the 1992 entry draft and was a member of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League World Champion Bandits team in 1993.
Mearns joined the Rochester Knighthawks in 1995. As their team captain, he lead the Knighthawks to four championship appearances (’96, ’97, ’99, and ’00) during his seven-year tenure and raised the Champions Cup with a 1997 victory over his former team, the Buffalo Bandits.
Mearns earned induction into the Rochester Knighthawks Hall of Fame in 2010, joining Jody Gage and Paul Gait in the franchise’s second class.
In the summer of 2001, the 1999 NLL All-Star Game MVP was picked up by the Calgary Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League expansion draft and was immediately traded back to the Bandits. The 2002 season saw Mearns have his best offensive output in his nine-year career, scoring 14 goals and dishing out 24 assists for 38 points.
Balancing out the winter and spring months while at Canisius and playing professionally, Mearns played in the Canadian Junior A and Canadian Senior A Lacrosse Leagues. During a 10-year stint beginning in 1990, Mearns appeared in eight National Championships, five of them as team captain. Of these eight appearances, Mearns and his teammates were crowned champions six times. They include the 1990 Minto Cup Champion St. Catharines Athletics, the Mann Cup Champion Brampton Excelsiors (’92, ’93) and the Mann Cup Champion Six Nation Chiefs (’94, ‘95’ ’96).
While coaching the Griffs, playing in the NLL and working as an investment advisor, Mearns conquered another personal goal and again graduated from Canisius College with a master’s in sport administration in 2002.
The Start of a Coaching Career
While succeeding as a player, Mearns was also heavily involved in developing and coaching field lacrosse in the traditional box lacrosse hotbed of his hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. He was the co-founder, coach, administrator and fundraiser of St. Catharines minor field lacrosse and was a significant participant in the development of the Ontario Minor Field Lacrosse League – a league that started with just under 10 teams in the early 90’s and presently flourishes with over 140 teams.
In 1994, Mearns relinquished many of his duties with the St. Catharines minor program and took over the Junior and Senior Niagara Raiders field lacrosse teams. In 1996, he was named as an assistant coach on the Canadian Junior National team that competed in the World Championship in Japan and helped guide the Canadians to a bronze-medal finish. A year later, the assistant coaching job at Canisius was vacated and Mearns returned to Canisius to serve under Mike Greco.
Returning with a silver medal from the 1998 World Championship in Baltimore where Mearns served as a tri-captain for the Canadian men’s team, he found himself with a glorious opportunity. Greco, after six years at the helm, stepped down as the head men’s lacrosse coach and Mearns was offered the job by retired Canisius athletic director Dan Starr.
A 2005 inductee into the Canisius College Sports Hall of Fame, Mearns and his wife, Connie, reside in East Amherst with their two sons, Tanner and Owen.