Three years and 22 days ago, Bobby Lamb announced his resignation as the football head coach at Furman.
On the same day, Mercer announced it would reinstate football.
The two came together almost two months later when Lamb was hired to restart Mercer’s program.
Things went well in the first season, and the school gave Lamb an early Christmas present Tuesday by extending his contract through 2019.
“Bobby Lamb has done a tremendous job creating a winning culture in his first season at Mercer and we look forward to having him build a football legacy that will last a lifetime,” Mercer president William D. Underwood said in a statement released by the school. “His vision for recruiting true student-athletes to our campus and bringing men of character to Mercer embodies what our university is all about.”
Lamb, one of 21 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award as the top FCS head coach in the nation, led the Bears to a 10-2 record with thrilling wins over Reinhardt, Campbell and Jacksonville as well as routs of Warner, Berry, Carnegie-Mellon and Davidson.
“This contract extension shows the continued commitment from the university to create a winning tradition at Mercer,” said Lamb. “President Underwood and athletic director Jim Cole have an incredible vision for the university, and I am excited about what we can accomplish in the coming years.”
Lamb was on the road recruiting Tuesday and unavailable for further comment.
Quarterback John Russ was named the Pioneer Football League’s top offensive freshman. Russ, running back Caleb Brown and punter Rob East made the Pioneer’s all-academic team.
Linebacker Tosin Aguebor was a first-team all-conference pick and tight end Robert Brown a second-team choice.
Running back JeTarii Donald, center Kirby Southard, defensive back Alex Avant and place-kicker Tyler Zielenske made honorable mention.
The non-conference schedule was made up of three new programs — two NAIA and a Division III — and one longtime Division III program, but the Bears went 6-2 in their lone season as members of the Pioneer Football League.
Things get substantially tougher now as Mercer prepares for life as a scholarship program in the Southern Conference.
Mercer will have about 30 players on scholarship for 2014 and 47 for 2015 and will open 2016 against Georgia Tech with the full FCS complement of 63.
But going 10-2, beating conference contender Drake, getting national air time with an electrifying interception return by Avant and having good crowds show up regularly help Lamb and his staff get into better living rooms than if the season had been a struggle.
And now having a contract that extends until after those signing on in 2014 will be done with their eligibility helps, as well.