Hartwell: Interest in position ‘going to be extreme’

Published 7:55 pm Monday, October 6, 2014

By Devin Smith

For the first time in a quarter-century the Troy Trojans will begin searching for someone to fill a head coaching vacancy in the football program.

Head coach Larry Blakeney announced his plan to retire at the end of the season, pushing the program into what Athletic Director John Hartwell described Monday as a “transitional” period.

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“The interest in our position is going to be extreme in a very positive way,” Hartwell said. “There are going to be a lot of very qualified candidates, and what our job is goes back to fit.”

With the vast pool of candidates for the job, Hartwell said he does not want to limit potential suitors based on things such as coaching experience or ties to the university. Instead, the focus will be on finding a man with character worthy to replace the void that will exist in Blakeney’s absence.

“Finding the right person in terms of Troy University, Troy football, who stands for ideals, has the core values of hard work and integrity and wanting to be the very best that we can be and will outwork all of our competition whether it’s on the recruiting trail or in game preparation, all of those things are going to be taken into consideration and certainly we’ll evaluate all of those candidates,” Hartwell said.

Hartwell expects to narrow the options down to three or four coaches who would best fit with the program before making a final decision, which he hopes to be by Dec. 1, but realizes that a mid-month announcement is a more reasonable timeframe.

Early names being thrown into the hat seem to almost exclusively be offensive coordinators from the SEC such as Florida’s Kurt Roper or Kentucky’s Neal Brown, who coached the final four years of Troy’s five consecutive Sun Belt conference championships, including the last two as offensive coordinator.

There have even been a few high profile coaches such as former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and Gene Chizik, a friend to both Blakeney and defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt, who won the 2010 BCS championship with Auburn and was on Troy’s campus in March to attend a practice session.

Names like those generally come with a steep price tag, but Hartwell was adamant that the university is prepared to do what is necessary from a financial standpoint.

“We certainly are prepared to be as competitive as we need to be both in terms of head coaching salary and assistance pool,” Hartwell said. “The engine that drives the train is football, and we are prepared to provide the financial resources necessary for us to be successful.”

In the midst of all the confusion and excitement on Troy’s campus from both the announcement and the beginning of homecoming week, the team still has more than half the season left to play, which could pay dividends both in the short and long-term picture of the Trojans. “We thought and believe that this could give a definite jump-start to the remainder of our season,” Hartwell said. “And as well look at transition, give us the opportunity to get out ahead of the curve in terms of starting the process of looking to see who is the right fit for the next coach of Troy University football.”