Will Healy, a former national coach of the year who turned around a moribund Austin Peay football program in his three seasons with the Governors, has accepted the football coaching position with the Charlotte 49ers, athletics director Mike Hill announced Tuesday.
Healy, 33, replaces Brad Lambert, who was fired in November after the 49ers went 5-7 last season. UNC Charotte’s Board of Trustees had a previously unscheduled meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, when Healy’s contract was approved. Healy will be introduced Wednesday afternoon at a news conference at Richardson Stadium.
“We are thrilled that Will and his family will be joining Niner Nation,” 49ers athletics director Mike Hill said in a statement. “When we set out to hire a coach, our goal was to find someone who will energize and transform the 49ers into a championship program. Will is that man. Across the country he is recognized as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the nation. His name came up time and again throughout our search as someone who is a relentless, proven recruiter who has seen remarkable success. On top of that, he places a high value on culture and developing student-athletes.”
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Healy, whose three seasons at Austin Peay are his only head coaching experience, will be among the youngest coaches in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
“In my first conversation with Mike Hill, I told him that I would walk to Charlotte to talk to him about this job,” Healy said in a statement. “This is a special place - a young football program with tremendous university leadership located in a first-class city. We can recruit and develop excellent student-athletes here and we can compete at a very high level. We’re thrilled to be part of this university and community. I can’t wait to get started.”
Known as a first-rate recruiter, Healy, who played at Richmond and was on the Spiders’ 2008 FCS national championship team, was an assistant at Chattanooga for six years before going to Austin Peay, where he had a three-year record of 13-21.
Taking over a program that was 3-43 over the previous four seasons, Healy’s first Governors team went 0-11. After losing their first two games of the 2017 season to FBS opponents, fans tore down the goalposts after Healy’s Governors beat Morehead State 69-13 to snap what had become a 29-game losing the streak, the longest active Division I losing streak in the country.
The Governors went on to an 8-4 record, narrowly missing the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Healy was named winner of the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the top coach in the FCS.
Last season, the Governors beat Morehead State 78-40, setting school records for points in a game, touchdowns in a game (11) and total yardage (758). The Governors finished 5-6 in 2018.
The 49ers offered former James Madison coach Mike Houston the job last week, but withdrew it after Houston said publicly he wanted to also consider other options. Houston was hired at East Carolina on Monday.
All-Conference USA players
Eight 49ers were named to the all-Conference USA team Tuesday, including junior defensive end Alex Highsmith on the first team.
Running back Benny LeMay, offensive lineman Nate Davis, linebacker Juwan Foggie and kicker Jonathan Cruz made second team. Tight end Chris Phillips, defensive end Tyriq Harris and safety Ben DeLuca were honorable mention.
Cruz, receivers Victor Cruz and Rico Arnold and linebacker Henry Segura made the league’s all-freshman team.
Will Healy file
Family: Wife, Emily; son, Eli, 3.
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tenn.
High school: Boyd-Buchanan School, Chattanooga.
College: Air Force (2003), Richmond (2004-08).
Coaching career: Chattanooga, assistant (2009-15); Austin Peay, head coach (2016-18), three seasons 13-21.
Honors: Eddie Robinson Award (2017), Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year (2017).
Bet you didn’t know: Healy was a finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Football award after his senior season of high school. He threw for more than 7,700 yards in his career, still a Chattanooga-area record.