MOUNT VERNON — The East Knox Board of Education approved the hiring of Calvin Hatfield as head football coach on Wednesday night. Hatfield takes over for Tom Holton, who announced he would not be returning during the season, and becomes the eighth coach in the program’s 45-year history.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” said Hatfield. “East Knox is a program I have followed for about 10 years. I went to college at Kenyon, and one of the things we did when I was there was to come over to East Knox and watch a game on Friday nights. I kind of fell in love with the atmosphere of the program and the area through that. I had in the back of my mind that this is where I might want to end up. I’ve been coaching the last four years, bouncing around between a couple of colleges and a high school in North Carolina. Through those experiences, I realized how good of a fit I might be when this opportunity came up.
“I believe the opportunity to have a really successful football program is here. I think the community supports the team, the community is ready to win and there is potential for a lot of success.”
East Knox athletic director Derick Busenburg knows Hatfield well from their days at Kenyon College, and he believes the decision was a good one.
“I am extremely pleased with the committee’s decision to hire Mr. Hatfield as the new East Knox head football coach,” said Busenburg. “He brings a lot to the table and is a great fit for our school and community. His vision for the East Knox football program is one that works very well with the vision and mission of the East Knox Local School District. We have a lot of football tradition to build on here at East Knox, and I am excited about where we are headed.”
East Knox superintendent John Marschhausen referred to Hatfield’s character, organizational skills, passion and vision as to reasons why he was selected. He also said the selection committee was “unanimous that Calvin has what it takes to turn our program around.” He also stated, “We had several excellent candidates, but we feel Calvin is the best fit and leader for our program.”
Busenburg said that overall, he was happy with the applicant pool, and the fact that the team’s 2-8 finish didn’t diminish the interest in the position.
“We were very pleased with the level of interest there was in our head coaching position, and much of that can be attributed to the great football tradition at East Knox that has been painstakingly built over the past 39 years,” said Busenburg. “We received over 40 applications from candidates with varying experience levels and were able to narrow that field down to seven individuals who we brought in for interviews. From those seven, we brought three individuals back for a second interview with a five-person panel. It was a unanimous decision by the panel to recommend Mr. Hatfield for the position.”
This is Hatfield’s first head coaching job, though he has been on the sidelines for the past five seasons. He has coached high school football in North Carolina and had two stints at the college level.
School board president Renee McDaniel said she hopes the parents who wanted a change will continue putting their energy into supporting Hatfield and the football program as it moves forward.
“What’s happened in the past in not incredibly important for us right now,” said Hatfield. “I have the utmost respect for coach Holton and the rest of the staff, so I’m disappointed to see the way the season went last year. We’re going to be making changes, and the kids have to get used to that. I don’t want us to be looking back at what has happened, but I want us to look forward. I have a vision for this team, and we are going to be changing the way we prepare for everything. We’re going to train different, practice different, watch film different; it will be different. How quickly the kids get on board will determine our success next year.”
Hatfield spent this past fall as an assistant coach at East Knox, so he is a little familiar with the players and the systems which they run. He’s hoping to carry on some aspects of the program while instituting some things of his own.
“I see great potential,” said Hatfield. “First and foremost, one huge carryover that I would like to see is the ethics of this program. I think this needs to be a program that places a high emphasis on character and integrity. Coach Holton and coach (Chet) Looney before him were outstanding leaders in that regard. I want that to continue. ... I also expect high performance academically.”
Hatfield played college football for Kenyon College prior to graduating in 2005. In 2002, he shared team MVP honors with Casey McConnell, and in 2004, he was named Honorable Mention All-North Coast Athletic Conference. The fact that he is a younger coach is something he believes could help aid the team’s transition.
“There are pros and cons to everything, but I’ve had a fair amount of experience,” said Hatfield. “I’ve grown up as a coach in the last four years. When I started directly out of college, I think the kids could immediately identify with me because I had been on the football field the year before. I’m starting to get a little bit away from that, but it does help that I’m young. I can relate to kids culturally. I’ve also played similar brands of football and they know that.”
News staff writer Pam Schehl contributed to this story.