The KSU football team kicked off a week of four practices Monday with a two-hour morning session under the watchful eye of former head coach Darrell Hazell.
Hazell accepted the head coaching job at Purdue 12 days ago, but cut a deal with both schools to stay on and coach the Golden Flashes through their Jan. 6 meeting with Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
After spending a majority of last week at Purdue interviewing 28 members of the current coaching and support staff, Hazell will be in Kent most of this week running four practices (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings), prepping for the bowl by watching Arkansas State film and meeting with the Kent State staff about their futures.
Here's some items from Monday that stood out:
* It was ironic that while Hazell guided practice at Dix Stadium, former KSU walk-on player and later assistant coach Paul Haynes was being interviewed to replace him on another part of campus. Haynes was the first candidate to be brought on campus for an in-person interview. If all goes well, a source close to the situation thinks things could move quick with Haynes, the front runner for the job.
“Paul’s a good guy, I really like him” Hazell said of Haynes, whom he coached with when both were assistants at Ohio State. “I don’t wan to put the cart before the horse, but he’ll relate well with the kids if he does get hired. And he’ll bring some of the same things we do now along with him.”
* With so much to do at Purdue between meeting his new players and assembling a new coaching staff, why in the world is Hazell staying on at KSU to coach through the Jan. 6th GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State?
The answer is simple: to honor his commitment of guiding the Flashes though their first bowl game in 40 years.
“That’s’ the big thing,” Hazell said, “finishing what we started. 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.”
* It's become clear that even if Hazell's replacement is named before the bowl game, Hazell wants to coach the bowl. It’s going to be a lot of work for Hazell over the next three weeks to keep tabs on KSU and Purdue, but he said he couldn’t stand the idea of staying home and watching the Flashes play in Mobile, Ala., via 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.”
* When rumors spread back on Dec. 4 that Hazell had accepted the job at Purdue, some players initially reacted emotionally. For example, sophomore running back Trayion Durham quickly took to Twitter, indicating that he might also leave KSU. Others, like junior kick returner/running back/receiver Dri Archer, began considering leaving school a year early to declare for the NFL draft.
“I’ll grab some of those guys to make sure they’re solid,” Hazell said when asked of he planned to talk to the pair.
* Running two Division I football teams at once is quite a tall order. Throw in a bunch of recruits on each side hoping to hear from their coach as to what their future holds and the NCAA could have a field day if Hazell isn’t extra mindful of the governing body’s ever-changing rules.
Hazell said he gave up KSU recruiting duties at the start of last week, but indicated the assistant KSU coaching staff visited with those already verbally committed while they were out on the road doing other recruiting.
After Monday’s practice, Hazell said he planned to meet with his KSU staff individually to discuss their future.
“I owe that to them, those guys have done everything I’ve asked them to do,” he said. “But those are tough conversations.”