MACON — When Mercer University announced the reinstatement of its football program last November after a 70-year hiatus, it stressed the institution’s commitment to fielding a competitive team that also upheld the University’s high academic standards. On Thursday, Mercer took another significant step toward achieving those objectives with the naming of Georgia native Bobby Lamb as its head football coach.
Born in Augusta and raised in Commerce, Lamb joins the Mercer coaching ranks after nine successful seasons as head coach at Furman University and a 29-year overall relationship with the Paladins’ football program as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He will become the 19th head coach in Bears’ football history on July 1.
"Bobby Lamb embodies the goals and direction we set for the reinstatement of football at Mercer University," President William D. Underwood said. "His track record in recruiting and coaching young men who are serious student-athletes is well established. He brings the kind of integrity and character that will mold young men into leaders."
Lamb’s Furman teams posted outstanding academic credentials. In the seven seasons since the NCAA instituted the Academic Progress Rate (APR) monitoring system — which tracks eligibility, retention and graduation — Furman’s program produced the highest APR scores among Southern Conference schools. Likewise, Furman football had the SoCon’s top results on the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR) with a score of 97 percent in 2009-10.
"In searching for a head coach to re-establish the football program at Mercer, we looked for traits such as strong leadership, strong character and the ability to understand the goals and objectives for the program set forth by President Underwood and the Board of Trustees," MU Director of Athletics Jim Cole said. "Bobby Lamb quickly rose to the top of our search list. His on-the-field success is just icing on the cake compared to what he brings to the table as a person. He is a ‘winner’ by every criterion."
During his tenure guiding Furman’s program, Lamb had a 67-40 record (.626) as its head coach. He led the Paladins to winning records in eight of his nine seasons and made four trips to the NCAA I-AA (now Football Championship Series) playoffs, reaching the quarterfinals in 2004 and the semifinals in 2005. His 2004 squad won the SoCon championship and Lamb was tabbed as the Conference’s "Coach of the Year." He also produced three runner-up, two third-place and two fourth-place SoCon finishes during his tenure. Lamb’s Paladins achieved national rankings of No. 5 in 2004 and No. 3 in 2005.
Including his 16 seasons as an assistant coach — where he spent the majority of his time as the passing game coordinator and working with quarterbacks –—Lamb-coached teams at Furman compiled a composite record of 193-105-3 (.646) in 25 seasons. When you factor in Lamb’s four seasons as a quarterback for the Paladins from 1982 to 1985, when Furman was 39-10-1, that aggregate won-loss record jumps to .667. In 29 seasons on the collegiate gridiron, Lamb has only been involved with three sub-.500 campaigns.
As a player at Furman, Lamb was a part of three SoCon championship teams and three NCAA I-AA playoff berths. As a senior, he was the SoCon "Player of the Year," the NCAA I-AA passing efficiency national leader and led the Paladins to an NCAA I-AA national runner-up finish. He is a member of Furman’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
"I have been very impressed with President Underwood and Athletic Director Jim Cole and the vision and leadership they are providing at Mercer," Lamb said of his decision to come to the Macon institution. "One of the qualities that most attracted me to Mercer was their emphasis on the true student-athlete. I have spent the past 29 years at an institution with very similar expectations.
"Sometimes the term ‘student-athlete’ is used nonchalantly. People forget that it is ‘student’ first and ‘athlete’ second. I have always stressed the importance of academics before athletics as a player, coach, and father. I believe my philosophy for building strong men who will become leaders in their communities, will be a perfect fit with Mercer.
"God has provided this tremendous opportunity for me to assist in the reinstatement of football at Mercer. I look forward to leading Mercer football to the top."
After disbanding its football program following the 1941 season, Mercer will officially begin play again in 2013 as an NCAA Division I non-scholarship program. The University is seeking membership in the Pioneer Football League. Current Pioneer League membership includes Butler University, Campbell University, Davidson College, the University of Dayton, Drake University, Jacksonville University, Marist College, Morehead State, the University of San Diego, and Valparaiso University.