Lake Erie AD: Football hire will be ‘turning point’
Athletic director, and the school embark on its search for a new football coach after Jerry Hazzard was not retained .
Kelley Kish was born and raised in Gainesville, Fla.
She graduated, and worked at the University of Florida. She loves college football.
Kish also knows the importance of college football — no matter the level — for an institution.
So as Kish, Lake Erie College’s athletic director, and the school embark on its search for a new football coach after Jerry Hazzard was not retained following the Storm’s 0-10 season, she won’t understate what the next hire means.
“The importance is there because we do want to show this is the turning point for our program,” said Kish, who is almost a year into the job. “And that this is the opportunity for our program to be defined in a way it hasn’t yet been.”
Kish did not under sell the hiring of LEC’s next football coach being a turning point.
“It has to be,” she said. “There’s only direction to go from here.”
That’s because times have been tough for LEC football. The last three seasons have produced three coaching changes and a 2-30 mark, including winless seasons in 2016 and 2018.
Included in that stretch was a messy situation in which Jeff Horrocks was hired as the successor to Mark McNellie on Dec. 29, 2016, but resigned Feb. 6, 2017. Later, it was revealed Horrocks was being investigated on allegations that violated LEC policy. Hazzard replaced Horrocks, but went 2-20 in two seasons, and was not retained after the Storm’s winless 2018 season.
Whoever is hired has a rebuilding job ahead of them, and Kish understands that.
“It’s a process ... It’s not a quick fix,” she said. “We (will) have patience in the process . ... The key word is time because we have to do it the right way. It’s the turning point, but it has to be done the right way.”
It’s an important time at LEC, where it’s finals week for the students. There’s also five football coaching candidates rolling into town for extensive interviews with a search committee - which is comprised of faculty, alumni, student-athletes and others - LEC coaches, and the school’s president. Three have already completed the process, with
two more to go, according to Kish.
Knowing the rebuild won’t happen overnight, Kish has a message for the candidates:
“I’ve said this to every candidate, and I mean this,” she said. “If you look across the board, all of our programs are having success in the (Great Midwest Athletic Conference). So you can recruit the kind of students that can be the kind of students here that can then lead us to be competitive in the GMAC. Football’s been the outlier in that.”
The last of the interviews is Dec. 8, said Kish. If all goes well, and a top candidate emerges, the next Storm coach could be revealed soon. The opening attracted more than 250 applicants, including 200 in the first week the position was open, said the AD.
Steps are under way to improving the football program. LEC’s weight room is getting an overhaul, and the turf at Painesville Rec Park’s Jack Britt Stadium, where the Storm plays their home games, is being replaced for the start of the 2019 season.
When asked if she envisions an on-campus football field for LEC, Kish said that “hasn’t even been on the agenda ... We are happy where we are. It works for us.”
As for the No. 1 prerequisite the next LEC football coach must bring to the table, Kish laid it out without hesitation.
“Recruiting locally ... I’ve challenged these candidates that building those bridges locally within (a three-hour) radius is the top priority,” said Kish. “I think that’s the way we ascend back.”
A selling point in recruiting Kish didn’t understate was this: “If you want to play football in Lake County, that’s us. Period.”
Kish has laid out the groundwork. The next step is hiring a coach. Then the work begins.