As Debbie Yow spends her first week of the NC State coaching search casting a net of intelligence gathering designed to narrow in on a replacement for Tom O’Brien, two potential candidates for the job take center stage tonight in the Mid-American Championship game. To bring you to speed quickly, the N&O posted the following late this afternoon
Northern Illinois faces Kent State in the Mid-American championship game tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2) in Detroit. N.C. State’s next football coach could come from one of those schools.
The Wolfpack’s coaching search has turned to the young MAC coaches, Dave Doeren of Northern Illinois and Darrell Hazell of Kent State. Both teams are 11-1 and both are ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll.
N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow has said she wants Tom O’Brien’s replacement to have the Wolfpack in annual contention for the top 25 and to regularly compete for the ACC title.
Doeren, who turns 41 on Monday, led the Huskies to a MAC title in his first season in 2011. Doeren, a former assistant at Kansas and Wisconsin, has a 22-4 record headin into tonight’s conference championship game.
Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, has turned the Golden Flashes around in two seasons. Hazell, 48, led the Kent State to a six-game improvement in his second season. Kent’s 11-1, and 8-0 in the MAC, after 5-7 debut in 2011.
N.C. State’s search, which began on Sunday, started with Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Clemson assistant Chad Morris, who both interviewed for the job, and has progressed to the pair of young MAC coaches.
Either MAC coach would be in for a significant raise if he lands the N.C. State job. Hazell makes $300,000 a year, according to USA Today, and Doeren makes $423,300.
Dykes, who makes $760,200, has reportedly also been courted by California in the Pac-12. Dykes’ father, Spike, said Thursday night he wasn’t sure which teams had contacted his son.
“There’s so many rumors in college football today,” said the elder Dykes, a former Texas Tech coach. “I swear, it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on.”
Morris, who’s the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, would probably cost N.C. State the most money to hire. Morris has a $1.3 million deal to be Clemson’s offensive coordinator.
Both Doeren and Hazell are considered hot commodities with openings still at Purdue, Boston College, Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee and Cal.
The winner of tonight’s game has a chance to qualify for a BCS bowl game. Kent State is ranked No. 17 in this week’s BCS standings and NIU is No. 21, if either finishes in the top 16, and ahead of one of the six automatic qualifying conferences, it would clinch an at-large bid.
Both teams are ranked ahead of the highest-rated Big East team in this week’s standings. The Golden Flashes beat Rutgers, the Big East co-champ, earlier this season.
I’m not buying that the search has ‘progressed’ from one set of candidates to another (Sonny Dykes & Chad Morris to Doeren and Hazell). But, more on that semantic in the future. For now, let’s genuinely highlight Doeren and Harzell since they will be showcasing their programs tonight.
Darrell Hazell is just another ‘overnight’ coaching success who was an assistant for almost 25 years (at places like Ohio State, Rutgers & West Virginia) before turning Kent State around in just two short seasons.
I personally think that Hazell not only fits the profile of a football coach laid out by Debbie Yow laid in Sunday’s press conference; but that he also fits the profile of coaches that Yow has hired to NC State over the last two years. Think about her hirings in soccer, wrestling, softball, et al — the one thing they all have in common is that the coach was succeeding at a level disproportionately higher than the resources that his/her previous school provided. That trait, coupled with Hazell’s energy and strong interpersonal communication ability (that usually translates into recruiting success) places the Kent State coach on my radar even moreso than Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, who has been referenced as a major candidate by some blogs. I also have reason to believe that some coaching dominoes are yet to fall that will significantly impact Doeren’s potential availability.
For a little more on Hazell you can read this article – Kent State buys into Hazell’s belief system.
No matter what, Kent State is headed to a bowl game for the first time since the 1972 season. It’s a team that, since a 33-point loss at Kentucky in its second game, has won a school-record 10 straight, including its first victory over a ranked opponent, No. 15 Rutgers, on Oct. 27.
They have come a long way since Hazell’s debut as a coach in 2011, when he took his team into the lair of eventual national champion Alabama and lost 48-7. But the belief started midway through the latter part last season, when Kent State put together a five-game winning streak.
“You could definitely feel things were changing,” Hazell said. “And you knew you were going to get some additional help this year (in terms of the players he had recruited). But I thought we started playing with much more confidence the end of last year.”
His former boss Jim Tressel wasn’t surprised . In their years together at Ohio State, where Hazell, the receivers coach, had risen to assistant head coach, Tressel took note of Hazell’s rapport with his players.
“Darrell always keeps first and foremost the needs of the team and the kids in mind,” Tressel said this week.
What the Golden Flashes needed more than anything, Hazell decided, was belief, and now that they have it, he said, the idea tonight is to lean on it.
“I told our players that this week all we have to do is the things we have been doing all year, but just do them a little bit better,” Hazell said.
I will leave you with a brief pre-season interview of Kent State’s Darrell Hazell.