Darrell Hazell brought a sense of excitement to Kent State University football that captivated the campus and the Kent community, transforming the Golden Flashes into a true Cinderella team.
Kent State earned the Mid-American East Division title, came heartbreakingly close to winning the MAC championship and won the Flashes' first bowl bid in 40 years.
Even more importantly, though, as one player told the departing coach, he taught the Golden Flashes how to win.
As Darrell Hazell leaves Kent to become head football coach at Purdue University, that's probably his most important legacy. He was an inspirational coach and a transfomational one who changed attitudes as well as history. The team he built, after only two years at its helm, is enormously stronger because of his presence. His successor, whoever that proves to be, will inherit an enthusiastic and energized group of young men with a will to win -- one of the key building blocks for a championship season.
Coach Hazell's time at Kent State was brief, and his departure for Purdue and a reported $12 million compensation package comes as no surprise. Kent State, given its size and resources, cannot possibly compete with schools such as Purdue, which can offer so much more to a talented coach.
The Flashes will have one more opportunity to play for coach Hazell, who will stay on as the team competes in their first bowl game since Don James took the Flashes to the Tangerine Bowl in 1972. We hope that the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State on Jan. 6 proves to be a victory lap for Kent State and their departing coach.
It's hard to lose a winner, but we wish Darrell Hazell continued success with the Boilermakers and trust that he will remember his time in Kent with fondness. Like Don James before him, he will remain in the hearts of many who found themselves thrilled by KSU football for the first time in a long while.
"I don't think we'll find another Darrell Hazell," KSU Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said Wednesday when the coach's departure was announced. Probably not. But it was great having one on board, even if only for two years.