North Alabama coach Mark Hudspeth and Appalachian State linebackers coach Dale Jones have met with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director Rick Hart this week to discuss the Mocs’ coaching job.
Hudspeth, whose Lions lost last Saturday in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs, said he and Hart talked for several hours Tuesday in Birmingham.
“We basically just got together and took some time to get to know one another and dialgoue a little bit,” Hudspeth said Wednesday. “It was a chance for us to get together and there was no offer made or anything like that.”
Hudspeth just completed his seventh season at UNA, where he has compiled a record of 66-21 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs, or beyond, five times. This season the Lions went 12-2 and reached the semifinals for the third time since 2003.
“I’m in a great situation here but I was glad I got the chance to talk to Rick and I was really impressed with him,” Hudspeth said. “I don’t know if we’ll talk again. He left it open ended, but I thought we had a good conversation and I enjoyed visiting with him.”
The Lions’ spread offense was among the most potent in Division II this season, finishing sixth in the nation in scoring with 41.3 points per game. As a team, North Alabama also set 27 school records, five Gulf South Conference records and two Division II records.
Jones, a Cleveland native who was also a star linebacker at the University of Tennessee, declined to give the specifics of his meeting with Hart, saying only that they “met this week.” Jones is on the road all week recruiting and said he was staying in Rome, Ga., Wednesday night.
Since the start of the search more than seven weeks ago, Hart has refused to speak publicly about any of the candidates to replace Rodney Allison, whose contract was not renewed after six seasons.
Hart had a brief phone conversation with Georgia running backs coach Tony Ball on Monday and has received permission to interview Ball from Bulldogs coach Mark Richt. Ball is on the road most of this week but he and Hart could meet in the next couple of days.
Ball, a Chattanooga native and a member of UTC’s hall of fame, did not return several calls Wednesday seeking comment, but he told the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald on Tuesday that “Chattanooga is where I was born and raised. To me, it’s a tremendous opportunity.”
If he’s hired, Ball would be the first African-American football coach in Southern Conference history.
Last week Hart is known to have interviewed Lambuth University coach Hugh Freeze, UT Martin coach Jason Simpson and Kentucky quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders. Freeze said Wednesday that he has spoken with Hart on the phone since he interviewed but he doesn’t know if he will meet with him again.
“My interest in the job is extremely high and I looking forward to hearing from him soon,” he said.
One possible candidate for the job, Richmond defensive coordinator Russ Huesman, who played with Ball at UTC, is still coaching in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and won’t be available to interview until after this weekend at the earliest. The Spiders play at Northern Iowa in the semifinals on Saturday.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...