Darrell Hazell made some history at Kent State just by being hired, becoming the school’s first black head football coach.
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Now comes the hard part of trying to turn the Golden Flashes into consistent winners in the Mid-American Conference.
”I’m proud and excited to be named Kent State’s head football coach,” Hazell said Monday after becoming the first minority to head the school’s football program in its 90-year history.
”I believe this is a tremendous opportunity and I can’t wait to give the Golden Flashes’ fans the winning program they deserve. Many of the pieces are in place to be successful and I’m confident that with a lot of hard work, we’ll get it done.”
Hazell becomes Kent State’s 20th football coach. He replaces Doug Martin, who resigned last month with one game remaining in a 5-7 season. Martin went 29-53 in seven years overall.
”I know we can win,” said Hazell, who will earn a base salary of $300,000 with additional contractual details to be worked out.
”I watched a lot of film already and we were close,” Hazell continued, speaking as if he already knew all the players well. ”But we need to change the image of this football program. We need to be completely positive.”
In order to get that accomplished, Hazell said he will carefully consider selecting a staff and that he intends to heavily recruit Ohio’s rich base of high school prospects.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel believes Hazell can turn Kent State into a winner.
”I’m so excited for Darrell,” Tressell said in a statement released by Ohio State. ”He has certainly been a difference-maker at Ohio State. The Golden Flashes are starting a golden era led by Darrell Hazell.
”He is an excellent technician, a very talented instructor and teacher, and has great knowledge and insights on the game, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Those qualities take a back seat to the care and leadership he gives to the young men who play for him.”
Joel Nielsen, Kent State’s director of athletics, said those characteristics were precisely why Hazell won out over a dozen candidates.
”When you’re looking for a head football coach, it’s not just a matter of if they can coach it’s important to make sure they are a fit for this program, this campus and this community,” Nielsen said. ”I have no doubt in my mind that Darrell is that person.”
Hazell was one of four interviewed at the Kent State campus. The others were Kent State defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis and wide receivers coaches Curt Cignetti of Alabama and Bobby Kennedy of Texas, respectively.
The 46-year-old Hazell has 25 years of college coaching experience, including the past seven at Ohio State. As Buckeyes wide receivers coach, he helped develop Anthony Gonzalez, Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr. into first-round NFL draft picks.
”In the time I spent with him at Ohio State and getting to know him, he’s a great coach and a great person,” said former Buckeyes star Brian Robiskie, a second-round pick by Cleveland in 2009. ”I think he is going to do a lot of great things for that program.”
Hazell was an All-America wide receiver as a senior at Muskingum (Ohio) University in 1986 and became running backs coach the next year at Oberlin (Ohio) College. He also was an assistant at Eastern Illinois, Penn, Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia and three years at Rutgers before joining Tressell’s staff in 2004.
Hazell’s last game with No. 6 Ohio State will be the Sugar Bowl game against No. 8 Arkansas on Jan. 4, but he will spend most of his time at Kent State before rejoining the Buckeyes after Christmas.