McManus named interim coach

Lance Lysowski

Kent State coach Doug Martin ‘s final game was emotional.

His wife was on the sidelines to give him a hug in the closing minutes of the 28-6 victory.

For the first time in his career at Kent State, Martin received a Gatorade shower from his players — a picturesque ending to his seven-year career.

Sixth-year senior running back Eugene Jarvis reverberated the players’ opinions that Martin was the last person to blame for a season of turmoil.

“To see the way that we came out and played today is remarkable,” Jarvis said. “It just shows the type of team we’ve had all year. You can’t solely put all of the blame on Coach Martin because coaches coach and players play. The things that he’s been instilling, we didn’t buy into it and it showed. It was pretty much sending Coach Martin out on a good note.”

Martin did not make himself available for comment following Friday’s game, but assistant coach Jerry McManus had a message from Martin regarding the timing of his decision to leave Kent State.

“Today, Coach Martin wants you to know that this was about these guys — players,” McManus said. “That’s why he did this when he did it, and he wants everyone to know the reason he did it was to take pressure off these guys. He told them earlier in the week it was about these players and that’s what he was making sure everybody knew about the players. It was not about him.”

McManus was named interim head coach to oversee recruiting efforts after Friday’s game. Rekstis, along with linebackers coach Jim Fleming and wide receivers coach Eugene Baker were retained. Assistant coaches Matt Edwards, Larry McDaniel, Richard McNutt, Terry Tilghman and Zane Vance were released.

“Once again, I’d like to thank Doug Martin and his staff for the job they’ve done with the program,” Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said in a press release. “I’m confident that the staff we’ve kept in place will provide the necessary leadership for our student-athletes as we search for a new head coach.”

Martin resigned last Sunday following the team’s 38-3 loss at Western Michigan. Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen began the national search for the 20th head coach in Kent State history, but players continue to say that Nielsen should look no further than defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis.

Rekstis has held the position for all seven seasons under Martin. The coach preaches a strong push from his defensive line and athletic play from defensive backs.

Throughout this season, Kent State’s rushing defense ranked top five in the nation.

Senior defensive end Monte Simmons said that for Rekstis to get the chance to become the next coach would carry the defense’s success over the entire team.

“Coach Reksis has always instilled in us attitude and discipline,” Simmons said. “We played the way he coaches us, and for him to get that opportunity, it would go throughout the whole team. Coach Rekstis always harped on us to share with our offense. That’s what I regret because we didn’t do that as much as we should have this year. With him in that position to give his energy, not to just us as defense, but to the whole team, I think that would be amazing. People would be able to see that heart and that passion and why we feel the way we feel on defense.”

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].