The location may have changed, but this fall Chris Hatcher will be right back where he has spent the previous 10 seasons — running a college football program.
Hatcher, a Macon native and former Mount de Sales Academy standout, was hired Monday by Murray State University in Murray, Ky. Hatcher replaces Matt Griffin, who was fired Nov. 16 after a 3-8 season. The other finalists for the job were Wisconsin recruiting coordinator Randall McCray and East Carolina offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler.
Hatcher was fired by Georgia Southern on Nov. 21, the same day the Eagles finished a 5-6 season with a win over The Citadel. He has a 94-27 record in 10 seasons as a head coach.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to be the head coach at Murray State, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get the Racers back on top of the Ohio Valley Conference,” Hatcher said in a news release from the school. “In the coming weeks, I will assemble an excellent staff, we will evaluate the current players on the team, and we will get out and recruit the best student-athletes possible to help us win. We will be an exciting football team to watch, and you can look for our boys to play hard every time they step onto the field.”
The Racers’ program marks the third stop in Hatcher’s head coaching career.
He started his head coaching career at Valdosta State, his alma mater, in 2000. Hatcher went 76-12 during his time with the Blazers, including winning the NCAA Division II national championship in 2004. Valdosta State reached the playoffs in six of his seven seasons at the helm and had undefeated regular seasons in 2001 and 2002.
Hatcher left the Blazers in 2007 to take over a struggling Georgia Southern program. At the time, he was the Eagles’ third head coach in three seasons, and Hatcher went 7-4 his first season in Statesboro.
In 2008, the Eagles went 6-5, but they dropped to 5-6 in 2009, Hatcher’s first losing season as a head coach, and he was fired after the Eagles won their regular-season finale 13-6.
The Racers have a solid tradition but have fallen on tough times lately. They are 13-43 in the past five seasons.
“He is an exceptional coach, having worked with some of the most respected and talented coaches in all of college football,” Murray State athletics director Allen Ward said in the release. “Everyone I talked to about Chris echoed the very same sentiments about his extraordinary abilities to connect with and lead young men.”
Murray State, which is in Kentucky, is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, an NCAA Division I conference whose football teams compete in the Football Championship Subdivision. Georgia Southern also competes in the FCS.
The program has been a proving ground for big-name head coaches. Mike Gottfried coached there from 1978 to 1980 before coaching at Cincinnati, Kansas and Pittsburgh. Current Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer coached the Racers from 1981 to 1986, and current Mississippi head coach Houston Nutt coached there from 1993 to 1996.
Current Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen and current llinois head coach Ron Zook also served as assistant coaches for the Racers.
“There’s a lot of tradition at this program,” Hatcher said during Monday’s news conference. “I’m following in the footsteps of some great coaches, some great names in college football who have had the privilege to be a Racer. I’m very excited and I’m very proud to be able to follow those coaches.”
Hatcher, who is the 17th head coach in the program’s history, received a four-year contract.
“I am really excited to have Coach Hatcher leading the Racer football program, especially when I think about the impact he is going to make on the young men in our program,” Ward said in the release. “He is a proven winner and exceptional leader. He will immediately capture respect and credibility with our team.”