If you’ve not yet had the chance to meet Hal, I hope you will. He’s one of football’s great legendary coaches – recently ranked as the 4th most influential coach in college football.
Veteran coach Mumme relishes chance to rebuild Belhaven
Riley Blevins, The Clarion-Ledger 11:27 p.m. CDT September 6, 2014
Hal Mumme pointed to a pile of business cards stacked on the corner of his desk.
“Head Football Coach” is imprinted on white cardstock below his name.
Something is missing, he joked.
“Some people flip houses for a living. I flip football programs,” he chuckled. “They should stick that on there.”
That’s what Mumme came to Belhaven to do.
But this move seems odd to some.
Mumme, who was hired in January, isn’t your typical football coach at a private NAIA school with an undergraduate enrollment just over 2,000.
That becomes apparent upon setting foot in his office. The walls are adorned with relics of his coaching past, which includes stints at Kentucky, Valdosta State, Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State and SMU.
There’s photos of Tim Couch, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft who Mumme coached at Kentucky, and Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen — now head coaches at Washington State and West Virginia, respectively — who alongside Mumme are a part of a coaching trio that is said to have invented the Air-Raid offense.
But Mumme sees nothing strange in the move to Belhaven.
He’ll tell you Belhaven has always been on his radar.
It started in the summer of 2001, just after Mumme resigned from Kentucky amid an NCAA investigation.
Dennis Roland, who had been on Mumme’s staff at Kentucky in 1997, was the head coach at Belhaven. He had asked Mumme to help run a camp.
“I just remember really liking the place,” Mumme said. “I fell in love with it.”
Mumme was serving as SMU’s passing game coordinator last season when he heard the job was open.
He set up a meeting. It was nothing but a feeler.
Or so he thought.
“I didn’t think I was going to apply for the job,” Mumme said. “But (Belhaven President Roger) Parrott is the best recruiter on this campus. I walked in just wanting to ask a few questions. I walked out the head coach.”
Mumme calls Parrott’s enthusiasm for football “infectious.” After all, Parrott helped bring the sport to Belhaven.
“That was a big deal for me. Presidents who start football are a special breed,” Mumme said. “Football is their son. It’s not their stepchild. They really care about it. We have great plans for the future.”
They start with Belhaven making the jump to the Division-III American Southwest Conference next year. After that, Mumme hopes to build a new stadium.
“Jobs aren’t about what level you’re at. They’re about who you work with,” Mumme said. “The art has always been more important than the venue.”
Mumme said his ultimate goal is to win a Division-III national championship.
But for now, he rolls out the worn cliché used by first-year coaches across the country. “I have to change the culture.”
The Blazers have won their first two games under Mumme — most recently a 32-14 victory over Mississippi College on Saturday — which makes Belhaven one win away from matching its win total from last season.
Mumme said he uses the same rebuilding tactics at each stop. “You have to have a great capacity for boredom,” he said. “That’s where you start.”
To better explain, he borrowed a quote from the Eagles. Yes, the rock band.
“I was up late one night in the 1980s watching VH-1,” Mumme said. “Some guy asked the Eagles why they were so great. They said they played the same cord over and over again until it was perfect. Then they moved onto the next. I thought that was perfect for football, too.
Mumme also said obsessing over “the little things” is vital.
To better explain, he took a page out of Bill Walsh’s book. Yes, the famed late San Francisco 49ers coach.
“Bill Walsh went out of his way to make sure players had the same experience they had during a home game on the road. He’d install bigger airplane seats. And they took two planes instead of one. They’d eat the same foods and all that,” Mumme said. “Today, everyone at the big level is first class. In D-III, being first class gives you a huge advantage. Our goal is to travel better than anyone. That helps us get things going in the right direction.”
Wins and losses are an easy way to gauge if a program is headed in the right direction.
But that’s not what Mumme enjoys most about his “flipping football programs” profession.
He likes finding the die-hards — those fans who attend every home game no matter the team’s record or the weather.
“It’s the same type of people at each stop. Those people with the long faces who approach you right when you’re hired. They’ll always give you some advice on how to fix it,” Mumme said. “I love finding those people a few years later, shaking their hands. It’s almost like an ‘I told you so’ moment.”
Contact Riley Blevins at (601) 961-7344 or email@example.com. Follow @Riley_Blevins on Twitter.