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Kent State hires Hazell to head struggling football team

After seven years on Jim Tressel’s coaching staff, Darrell Hazell will leave Ohio State to become the head football coach at Kent State University.

Hazell served as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach for the past six seasons after one year coaching the Buckeye receivers and kick returners. He was announced as the head man at Kent State at a 3 p.m. press conference Monday.

“It’s an opportunity for me to build a football program the way I want to build a football program,” Hazell said.

Hazell’s base salary is set at $300,000 per year, according to the Kent State University website.

The coach’s departure marks the first time an assistant coach has left OSU since defensive backs coach Tim Beckman became defensive coordinator for Oklahoma State following the 2006 season.

Despite losing a key member of his staff, Tressel was not upset about the decision.

“I’m so excited for Darrell Hazell as he takes over as the head coach at Kent State. He has certainly been a difference-maker at Ohio State,” Tressel said in a prepared statement. “The Golden Flashes are starting a golden era led by Darrell Hazell.”

Though only 46, Hazell brings 23 years of assistant coaching experience to the Kent State sidelines. His career has included stops at Oberlin College, Eastern Illinois University, University of Pennsylvania, Western Michigan University, the U.S. Military Academy, West Virginia University and Rutgers University prior to OSU.

“Darrell Hazell is more than prepared for this opportunity,” said Joel Nielsen, Kent State director of athletics.

Besides his coaching experience, Hazell earned all-conference honors three times and All-American honors once as a wide receiver for Division II Muskingum University from 1982-86.

Experience aside, Hazell faces the challenge of a program that is not used to winning.

As the 20th coach of the Golden Flashes, Hazell replaces Doug Martin, who resigned during a 5-7 season, his seventh with the school. The Flashes were 29-52 under Martin and did not record a winning season.

“I know we can win here,” Hazell said. “I spent a lot of time studying film last week of the offense, the defense and the kicking game, and we are real close. There are a few things that we can do to make this thing take off.”

University President Lester Lefton thinks Kent State finally has found the right coach.

“I’ve always said we have a long, rich tradition in not doing particularly well in football, and that’s about to change,” he said.

Hazell thanked Tressel for his guidance and said he will stay on the OSU staff long enough to coach in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

Though no longer a university employee, Hazell’s relationship with OSU will continue after that game.

“His Buckeye family wishes him every success,” Tressel said.

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