Former Kent State football coach Darrell Hazell began officially saying his goodbyes early Wednesday morning after accepting a new job coaching at Purdue, where ESPN reported he's set to make $12 million over a six-year contract.
Although word leaked out late Tuesday night that he had accepted the Boilermakers job, Hazell still wanted to tell everyone and thank them personally.
After a meeting with his coaching staff at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday morning to inform them of his impending departure, Hazell then meet with the players briefly at 6:30 a.m -- a meeting he said last all of five minutes.
“Litterally I was in the room for five minutes,” he said. "I made a statement, I asked if they had any questions and there were no questions. I told them I loved them and I walked out."
The players responded with a loud round of applause.
"That was by far the coolest exit I have ever seen," tweeted junior defensive lineman Richard Gray.
A few hours later at 10 a.m., Hazell walked into a third-floor lodge that overlooks the basketball court and waded through a packed crowd of media, athletic department workers and other university employees before reaching the table he hAd spent many Monday mornings at doing his weekly Monday news conference the past two seasons.
During Wednesday's somber 16-minute talk, Hazell, 48, explained why he was leaving.
“There’s obviously a lot of mixed emotions when something like this happens,” he said. “I got the offer yesterday at about 4:30 and accepted the job last night about 9 o’clock to go be the head coach of Purdue University.
“I’m excited about that new chapter in my life, but obviously it’s always hard to leave people that you love. I made some tremendous relationships here in the last two years. There’s a lot of great people in this Kent State community and people that I’ll never forget, people who helped me develop as a head coach and I’m surely going to miss a lot of these people around here.
“I think we did something special around here because of a lot of people. It wasn’t just me, there were a lot of people who had their hand in the success that we’ve had at Kent State.”
Hazell said he’s leaving Kent at 4 p.m. today to head to Indiana for a scheduled 7 p.m. news conference at his new school. Afterward, he said he would fly back to Ohio late tonight and “then be back and forth here a little bit the next couple days and figure out the bowl scenario here.”
When asked about the possibility of coaching the Flashes in the Jan. 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl -- KSU's first appearance in a bowl game in 40 years -- Hazell said he hoped to do so.
"Absolutely, I would," he said. "Purdue granted me permission to coach this bowl."
Reporters are expected to meet with some of the Flashes football players and KSU Athletic Director Joel Nielsen after practice today at about 3:45 pm today.