By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
GSU Head Football Coach Chris Hatcher fired
AD Sam Baker makes announcement after win over The Citadel
Georgia Southern Athletic Director Sam Baker shakes hands with head football coach Chris Hatcher Saturday after Hatcher and the team arrived at Paulson Stadium. Baker said he informed Hatcher his contract would not be renewed after the Eagles defeated the The Citadel, 13-6, to finish the 2009 season at 5-6.

    Moments after the Georgia Southern Eagles defeated The Citadel 13-6 in the Eagles’ final football game of the season Saturday at Paulson Stadium, head coach Chris Hatcher was told his contract would not be renewed.

     Hatcher and his staff were released after an 18-15 record through three seasons.

    “After the coaches show, (vice president for Business and Finance) Dr. (Ronald) Core and I met with coach Hatcher and informed him that the university has decided not to renew his contract,” said GSU director of athletics Sam Baker. “This was an ongoing discussion over the past week and the decision was made. It had no bearing on the game (Saturday), but it was a decision we felt like we needed to make and one that we felt we needed to move as quickly as possible on.”

    The decision was reached by a group of administrators, which included Baker, Core, who is Baker’s direct superior, and GSU president Dr. Bruce Grube.

   Grube, who resigned from the position and will step down on December 31, also said he had been communicating about the situation with Dr. Brooks Keel, who will take over the presidency January 1.

    “His message back is that he and I are on exactly the same page on this decision,” said Grube. “We’re both strongly supportive of Sam Baker. … He is responsible to have quality athletics here, and that is what you see him doing right now.”

    Baker said the main factor in the decision not to renew Hatcher’s contract was the lack of improvement in the play of the team.

    “We just didn’t feel like next year was going to be any different than this year,” Baker said. “We just felt like now was the time to do it – go ahead and make the change and start anew – working to get our program back to being one of the premier programs in (Football Championship Subdivision) football.”

   The 2010 recruiting class was a factor in the timing of the termination.

   “It is very, very important to our program that we go out and get a good recruiting class,” said Baker. “We certainly are not wanting to have a turnstile of coaches. … We talked about whether to wait, but it just seemed the proper thing to do to go ahead and make the decision.”

   While the next head coach has not been determined, the goal to fill the position is expected to be made as soon as possible.

    “We’ve got some ideas obviously,” Baker said, “and I think it’s important to get out there as quickly as possible. Timing is going to be the utmost importance with recruiting.”

    Baker alluded that all available candidates would be taken into consideration, including those from Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s coaching tree. Johnson perfected his triple-option offense while at Georgia Southern and ran it successfully at Navy. He is currently the head coach at No. 7-ranked Georgia Tech.

   Baker hopes that whoever gets the position will help bring back a fanbase which he feels has been alienated from the program.

   “I think somewhere along the way we’ve kind of lost some of those people, and we need to try and rejuvenate that fan base and they and get them back on board with our program.”

   Baker takes full responsibility for the decline of a program that made the FCS playoffs eight times in the nine years leading up to the release of former coach Mike Sewak in 2005.

   “I’m always accountable,” Baker said. “It’s my job to run the athletic department. I’m certainly visible. I’ve never run from anything in the 14 years I’ve been here. I feel like we’ve made good decisions based on the information we had at that time. As time goes on, sometimes things change. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.”

   Grube also addressed rumors that Georgia Southern’s high academic standards have restricted the program’s ability to recruit quality players. He said that 18 high-risk players were given exemptions over the last three years

   “The fact of the matter is, we’ve created 18 super exceptions to admit football players here,” said the GSU president. “Only 40-percent of those are left. … There has been lots of opportunity to bring kids in, and using the excuse that admissions standards are what’s in the way, folks, that’s flat-out not the fact.”

  Grube described Johnson’s recruiting restrictions while at Navy.

     “Paul Johnson has told us that when he went to Navy, he had no exemptions,” Grube said. “He went to the superintendent, was granted one, and was told that if he could deal with that one, maybe he’d get two the next year. He did. We’ve had 18, so I’m not amused by the chatter out there that it’s our admissions standards that are preventing our program from being good.”

    Hatcher could not be reached for comment.

     Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter