Lake Erie AD: Foot­ball hire will be ‘turn­ing point’

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Mark Podol­ski mpodol­[email protected]­ald.com @mpodo on Twit­ter

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.

Kish

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