Players, athletic department reacts to Martin’s resignation

Lance Lysowski

Leneric Muldrow fought to hold back tears when talking about Kent State coach Doug Martin’s resignation.

Leneric Muldrow fought to hold back tears when talking about Kent State coach Doug Martin’s resignation.

The 5-foot-7 senior wide receiver said Martin is a father figure to him and many of the players on the team at a press conference in the M.A.C. Center Monday afternoon.

“A lot of people on this team, a lot of people that came to Kent State, didn’t have scholarships anywhere else — myself included,” Muldrow said. “Just for him to give me an opportunity to come play the game that I love. The game nobody else told me I could; I was too small or too slow. He saw right through that. He saw straight to the heart. Everybody in the country didn’t believe in you, but one man.”

Martin, who was named head coach before the 2004 season, announced his decision to Joel Nielsen, Kent State Director of Athletics, and the Flashes Sunday afternoon. Nielsen immediately called some of the top coaches in the country for advice in selecting Martin’s successor.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz — all Kent State alums — responded to Nielsen.

While the process of finding a coach will not be solved overnight, it began when Martin announced his resignation. Nielsen knows what he is looking for in a successor.

“We’re looking for someone with a lot of integrity, high energy, someone who has the capability to understand what it takes to win at a program such as Kent State, someone of familiarity with the (Mid-American Conference) I think is important, familiarity of Northeast Ohio and our recruiting base,” Nielsen said. “Someone that understands they are going to be walking into a heck of a challenge.”

The next coach will have to overcome the adversity that followed Martin during his tenure at Kent State. The seven-year coach was given the lowest recruiting budget in the MAC, while pitching out-of-date facilities to players visiting the school.

With a base salary of $190,000, Martin is also the lowest paid football coach in the MAC.

Nielsen, who implemented his 90Ksu plan after his hiring and deemed football as a No. 1 priority, said he and his staff will continue fundraising efforts to help sell Kent State to candidates.

“We need cash infusion-recruiting, facilities, we need facility upgrades, strength and conditioning — that’s a huge component of a program our size,” Nielsen said. “It’s how much success we have externally fundraising, which is something as I

mentioned that we’ve had a lot of success. Those are still all ongoing discussions and I’m sure we’ll have those same sort of discussions.”

Several coaches have shown interest in the vacant position, and Nielsen’s staff has a short list of candidates they plan to pursue.

The issue facing Nielsen is the backlash that hiring a new coach can have. Akron coach Rob Ianello’s hiring last year caused players to leave the program and a 0-11 record so far this season.

Nielsen said he believes Kent State is a unique situation for a coach to take over but understands the first few years could go either way.

“From what I saw this year, our competitiveness is right there,” Nielsen said. “It’s just ready to break through and that’s a credit to Coach Martin and his staff. A lot of those players return. There will be a lot of talent for the next staff. I think we’re in a good place right now.

“We have a great university, we have great facilities, we have great people. I can’t wait to go out and sell this program to candidates.”

While Nielsen focuses on his first major hire as director of athletics, the Kent State football team is preparing to face Ohio in Martin’ s last game as head coach.

“What better way to send him off then with a win?” senior safety Brian Lainhart said.

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].