New UWO coach Jennings focused on conference title now, national championship later

Former UW-Whitewater assistant Peter Jennings is entering his first season in Oshkosh, replacing longtime UWO coach Pat Cerroni.
Posted at 9:51 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 22:51:55-04

OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — Six months in, Peter Jennings' transition to UW Oshkosh has been smooth, but it hasn't been perfect.

“We had a team meeting earlier today and I made a comment telling them to check their (UW-Whitewater) email address and I thought I was going to get some binders thrown at me," Jennings joked. "I thought I was going to have to mend some fences after that.”

After four years as an assistant at UW-Whitewater, Jennings is a Titan now. Old rivalries aside, his players have had little trouble embracing him.

“I think everybody loves him," UWO junior linebacker and team captain Tory Jandrain said. "He’s been doing a great job."

"I was concerned when he kind of came in here. Especially being purple and all," Jandrin joked. "But the way he talks to us, the way he treats us, he really won the locker room over very quickly.”

The change hasn't come without its challenges. Sophomore running back Peter MacCudden said the team has faced unique adversity the past several months.

“It was a big wake up call for us," MacCudden said. "Not everybody goes into college thinking they’re going to have a coaching change, but it happens."

"The way that we were able to react as a team and keep moving forward and then eventually buy into what Coach Jennings and the rest of the staff want us to do, that’s going to pay big dividends for us," MacCudden added.

Jennings said UWO's existing culture, created by legendary coach Pat Cerroni - who retired following last season - has helped him ease into the job.

“I knew that there was going have to be some growth and some trust that I would have to earn from our players," he said. "Taking a step back and doing an overall program evaluation allowed me to gain some trust from the players that I wasn’t just here to go scorched earth on this program."

"I knew that there was a strong foundation in place and that we were trying to do was build off that foundation, not tear it down,” Jennings said.

This year, the primary goal is the program's 12th conference championship.

Thinking bigger, Jennings believes one day he can "100 percent" win a national title in Oshkosh.

"We’ve got unbelievable people in the athletic department," he said. "We’ve got unbelievable people in the administration. The Fox Valley is an easy place to recruit to. This campus is an an easy place to recruit to."

"If we stay the course. If we work hard. If we put our nose to the grindstone… We’ll get back there," Jennings said. "It’s just a matter of time."

UWO finished as the Division III National Runner-up in 2016. The Titans also made the DIII Final Four in 2012 and 2017. The program last won a conference title in 2019.

The Titans will open the season Saturday, September 3 at home against East Texas Baptist University.