Hiring a former Jim Tressel assistant worked out so well for Kent State the first time, why not try it again?
That's exactly the route the Golden Flashes have taken in the wake of Darrell Hazell's departure to Purdue, turning to Kent State alumnus and former Ohio State defensive assistant Paul Haynes as their new head coach. Athletic director Joel Nielsen made the hire official Tuesday.
"I am very excited to welcome Paul back to the Kent State family," said Nielsen. "During our search for a new head coach, I was looking for someone who had the qualities that could carry on the recent success of the football program. Those qualities include leadership, a genuine interest in our student-athletes, integrity and an understanding of Kent State and the Mid-American Conference. Ohio recruiting ties were also very important.
"Paul hits on every one of those areas."
Haynes takes over a Golden Flashes program experiencing the rush of expectations for arguably the first time in its history after Hazell produced an 11-2 season and MAC West title in just his second season. And on the basis of 2012 alone, Haynes might be an odd choice to fulfill those expectations, coming off of a single season as Arkansas's defensive coordinator in which the Hogs finished 73rd in FBS total defense and 12th in the 14-team SEC.
But until that unhappy experience in Fayetteville -- one undoubtedly made more difficult by Bobby Petrino's sudden dismissal after Haynes' hire and John L. Smith's equally sudden return as head coach -- Haynes had stamped himself as a bright up-and-comer, one with stints at Louisville and Michigan State (under Smith, ironically) before landing as Tressel's defensive backs coach in 2005. Haynes spent the next six years on the Buckeye staff, eventually rising to the rank of co-defensive coordinator in 2011.
That resume and his Kent State ties -- and possibly the success his former Ohio State colleague Hazell enjoyed -- were enough to get him the nod.
"This has been a whirlwind, and I can't begin to describe my excitement about the opportunity to come back to Kent State as head coach," Haynes said in a KSU statement. "Being a former player and assistant coach here, and now coming back at a time where there is so much pride around the football program and the university, it is unbelievable. My family and I are excitedabout coming back to Ohio. I'm looking forward to getting involved with the players and embracing the Kent State alumni."
The Flashes are set to face Arkansas State in the Jan. 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl, the program's first-ever FBS bowl appearance. The game could be the final appearance for Kent all-purpose All-American Dri Archer, unless Haynes can help convince him to put the NFL Draft off for a season -- a sales job that may be Haynes' job No. 1 upon his return to Kent.