Only one candidate to become Kent State University’s next football coach can look fans squarely in the eye and declare that leading the Golden Flashes program is his “dream job.”
That man, Paul Haynes, saw that dream become reality when he was officially introduced as Kent State’s 21st head football coach during a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the Governance Chambers at the Kent Student Center.
“I don’t have words for it. I really haven’t landed yet,” said Haynes, a 1992 KSU grad and former walk-on, who wound up starting four years at defensive back for the Golden Flashes from 1987-91. He also served as an assistant coach at KSU from 1999-2000. “It’s gonna take me awhile to really grasp that I’m the head coach at Kent State, just because it’s been a dream of mine. When I got into this profession, being the head coach at Kent State was one of my goals, and now that goal has been accomplished.
“I still can’t believe it. But I’m excited about it, and I’m looking forward to doing a good job with it. I love this place. I love Kent State.”
The 43-year-old Haynes was presented with the No. 20 jersey he wore while playing for the Flashes after agreeing to a five-year contract worth $375,000 per season plus incentives, which are still being negotiated. His salary ranks in the middle of the pack among other Mid-American Conference football coaches. His predecessor, Darrell Hazell, was the lowest-paid coach in the MAC at $300,000 per season.
Haynes replaces Hazell, who accepted a six-year, $12 million offer to become head coach at Purdue University on Dec. 5 after leading the Golden Flashes to a school-record 11 wins and a MAC East Division championship in 2012 — its first title of any kind since 1972. Kent State also earned its first bowl bid since that same season, and will take on Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State (9-3) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Jan. 6.
When the search for Hazell’s replacement began two weeks ago, Golden Flashes Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said he’d “never find another Hazell.” But he’s come about as close as possible by selecting Haynes, who served as an assistant coach at Ohio State, alongside Hazell under head coach Jim Tressel from 2005-10.
“Right now, the key to this program is consistency. And I think that’s why Mr. Nielsen looked at me, because he knows that coach Hazell and I have a lot of the same philosophies,” said Haynes. “It has to do with these young men and the relationships with these (players). I think what these guys want to hear is that there aren’t gonna be a lot of changes, and that’s what I told them. We’re gonna continue to move forward with my little bit of flavor.”
Hazell will coach the Flashes through the bowl game before giving way to Haynes, a Columbus native who spent the 2012 season as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas. He was the only candidate interviewed on campus.
Haynes and his wife Danita have three children: Daughters Jordyn and Kennedy Rose, and son Tarron.
Follow Allen Moff on Twitter at @MoffRC
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