KENT: The music blared Monday morning at Dix Stadium during Kent State’s football team bowl practice, as former coach Darrell Hazell stood watch in the midst of the action just like he always has.
With Hazell’s arms folded across his chest, his trademark square-billed cap perched on his head and a whistle hanging out of his mouth, it appeared as if nothing had changed as the Flashes prepare for the Jan. 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
However, circumstances surrounding the Golden Flashes football future had drastically changed. Twelve days earlier, Hazell accepted a $2 million a year salary to coach at Purdue. However, as part of the deal he cut with both schools, Hazell wanted to stay on to guide the Flashes though their first bowl game in 40 years.
“That’s the big thing, finishing what we started,” he said. “We set out at the beginning of the season talking about winning a championship and playing in and winning a bowl game. So it’s pretty special for me to be around these guys for these last couple weeks.”
But just as KSU players and coaches appeared to be adjusting to the new normal Monday, away from the stadium on another part of campus, school athletic administrators met with Paul Haynes — who later in the day agreed to replace Hazell and become KSU’s new football coach.
At Purdue, officials have bet the bank that Hazell will turn the Boilermakers into contenders in the Big Ten the way he made the Flashes a force in the Mid-American Conference in two quick seasons.
At Kent State, many fans and a large group of alumni supported Haynes to be the next Hazell, a charismatic coach able to continuing building upon the team’s current success and further raise its public profile.
But even with Haynes in place before the Flashes meet Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, Hazell will continue in his dual role at both schools — beginning to build a foundation for Purdue while seeing KSU through one of the promises he made when he arrived on campus in 2010 after a promising seven-year apprenticeship at Ohio State.
It’s going to be a lot of work for Hazell, but he said he couldn’t stand the idea of staying home and watching the Flashes play on television.
“It would be hard,” Hazell said. “I’ve done that once before when I left West Virginia before a bowl game to take the Rutgers job. That was really hard.”
Last week Hazell spent a majority of his time at Purdue interviewing 28 members of the Boilermakers current football and support staff. This week, he said he’ll mostly be in Kent. Starting this week, the NCAA considers the next three weeks a “dead period” for recruiting, which gives Hazell time to work on more bowl prep and putting his new Purdue coaching staff together.
“My days are all running together,” he conceded at one point. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s all good. This week is pretty much a Kent week. My concentration right now is to get these guys ready. I’ve been studying [Arkansas State] film like I normally do, making sure we put together a good game plan.”
The Flashes will continue morning bowl practices today, Wednesday and Friday, and off the field Hazell will concentrate on meeting with his KSU coaching staff members and dissecting Arkansas State tape as a part of his usual game-planning prep.
“I studied all their special team clips Friday and spent the last two days going though all their defensive clips,” he said. “But I haven’t watched them on offense yet.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.