A source close to the Kent State University Athletic Department confirmed that head football coach Darrell Hazell interviewed for the University of California head coaching job on Sunday.
Hazell and officials from Cal reportedly met at an undisclosed location, but not in Berkeley.
Hazell would not comment on whether or not the meeting took place, while Kent State Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen would not address whether or not California has shown interest in Hazell.
“I can’t comment on anything like that,” said Nielsen. “I will say that coach Hazell has done a wonderful job here. He’s been everything I thought he would be when we offered him the position. When you have outstanding people on your staff, other people are gonna take notice. We’re very proud of coach Hazell and what he’s done here, and I hope he’s here for a lot of years.”
Hazell, 48, led the 25th-ranked Flashes to a school-record 11 wins this season and to a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 5 in Mobile, Ala, KSU’s first bowl bid since 1972. Kent State (11-2) also captured its first MAC title of any kind since ‘72, winning the MAC East Division championship, and fell to Northern Illinois 44-37 in the MAC Championship Game last Friday in Detroit.
The Flashes started 1-6 in Hazell’s first season, but finished the year by winning four of their last five games. They proceeded to rip off a school-record 10 consecutive victories after a game-two loss at Kentucky this season, including a 35-23 triumph at No. 15 Rutgers.
Hazell owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in Kent State history (16-9, .640).
The Golden Bears are seeking a replacement for Jeff Tedford, who was relieved of his duties last Tuesday after his team suffered through a 3-9 season in 2012.
Tedford has led the Golden Bears for the past 11 seasons and won more games than any previous Cal coach, compiling an 82-57 record. The Bears won 10 games twice under Tedford, and he was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He also owns school records for most bowl wins (5), most games coached (139) and most conference victories (50).
The Bears reportedly interviewed Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, and also reportedly contacted Gary Andersen, who announced Friday that he would remain at Utah State.
Hazell originally signed a five-year contact to coach Kent State in 2011, but the deal includes a wide variety of incentives — including one for victories in a season, which he reached this year, that tacks on another year to the original contract. There is a buyout clause in his contract should Hazell leave early.
A native of Cinnaminson, N.J., Hazell spent his previous seven seasons as a wide receivers coach for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He also has coaching experience at Oberlin, Eastern Illinois, Penn, Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia and Rutgers, where he was assistant head coach in 2003.
Hazell played wide receiver at Muskingum University, earning small-college All-America honors in 1986.
Hazell has never coached out west, but California Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and former Kent State Deputy Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein are both Wake Forest graduates. Kleinlein was involved in the hiring process when the Flashes chose Hazell.
Hazell’s name has also surfaced in connection with job openings at Boston College and Purdue. Another job that Hazell may be interested in could be Louisville if it opens up, as Cardinals coach Charlie Strong’s name has been associated with several job openings in the past week.