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Q&A: Kent State coach Darrell Hazell

Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell became head coach at Kent State on Monday afternoon. He replaces Doug Martin, who resigned at the end of the season. I just had a chance to catch up with Hazell, and here is a little of what he had to say:

What attracted you most to this job?

DH: Well, the people are the most important thing for me, making sure I get around some good people who have the same objective and see the vision we have to set out to go get things going. The second thing is the opportunity for me to run my own program the way it needs to be run, and the third thing is having an honest chance to win football games right away.

Why do you believe this team has a chance to win right away?

DH: I went and watched the film before I said yes to the job. There are enough good players here to be competitive. If we can surround those good players we have currently with a few other guys, we’ll be OK to compete next year for what we want to compete for.

Kent State has made just one bowl appearance in its history, the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. How do you begin to change the culture and mind-set of a program that has not had a tradition of success?

DH: It is a belief system you have to instill in the players and the whole organization. If you don’t have a belief system, you don’t have a chance. We’re going to change the image of our guys, the way they think, to have a balanced ego and walk around with their chest out. That’s how it’s going to start. Then we’ll talk about the execution and making guys understand why things happen the way they happen, and teach them throughout the whole process.

You are the first minority head coach in the history of Kent State football. How do you feel about that?

DH: I hope that’s not how I’m perceived. I’m very proud off my culture, my upbringing and my ancestry. I think we have to move past that as a society. I hope they see me for being a good football coach and a good person before they see that.

Much has been made of the issue of opportunities to get more minorities head coaching opportunities in college football. Have you thought much about that?

DH: I don’t put a whole lot of thought into it. It’s about the individual and how he prepares and gets his team prepared, and hopefully we continue to move in the direction that we need to, but it’s not about where you’re from or what religion you are. It’s about who the person is.

Why are you the right person to lead this team?

DH: I’ve studied for 25 years to do this, and I’ve seen a lot of things to do and I’ve seen a lot of things not to do. I’ve taken meticulous notes of how to be successful, and I feel that I’m really excited that I was given this opportunity to make these strides and take this thing to another level.

What is the biggest thing you have learned in all your time as an assistant that you will apply as a head coach?

DH: I think everyone talks about the discipline, but on Saturday what it comes down to is execution, how well you can execute when things are flying by your head. It’s the crunch situation -- what emotions are you going to call on to execute your job? Hopefully I can convey that to the team right away and have them understand you’re going to be in the thick of things and you’re going to have to call the right emotions to handle those situations. If you can’t, the little stuff won’t be able to be accomplished.

You will coach for Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Why did you make that decision?

DH: I feel like we’ve come this far as a team this year at Ohio State. We finished the season 11-1. For me to walk out on those kids would not be right. They were ecstatic I’d be able to coach the bowl game, so it all worked out. It’s a relatively quiet time in recruiting, and hopefully I will have some guys in place then to help me out with that.