Dean Hood was extremely interested in returning to Eastern Kentucky University when he learned that his mentor and friend Roy Kidd was going to retire after 39 highly-successful seasons.

He interviewed for the position, but eventually it was former Colonel lineman Danny Hope who has picked to succeed the Hall of Fame coach.

Admittedly, Hood was more than a little disappointed.

And at the time he didn’t give much thought to the possibility that he might ever get another opportunity to take over the program that Kidd led to two national championships.

But, more than five years later he received a rather unexpected call.

“It was our secretary and she said this guy Mark Sandy had been trying to get a hold of me,” Hood said. “I didn’t even know who Mark was. I asked her, ‘Who is he?’ She said she didn’t know, but he said he really needed to talk to me.”

Sandy, EKU’s athletic director, had learned that there was a very strong probability that Hope would be leaving the school to join the coaching staff at Purdue and was trying to form an initial list of potential candidates for the position.

“I did not know Dean,” Sandy said. “I only knew about him. I knew a couple of the candidates or potential candidates a little better. I did talk to a couple of head coaches, but Dean’s name kind of filtered up pretty quickly and I started to branch out and talk to some people about him.”

It didn’t take long for the Wake Forest defensive coordinator to emerge as the top candidate for the position and less than two weeks after first being contacted by Sandy he was hired as just the third head football coach at EKU in the past 44 years.

Hood spoke before a crowd of supporters and media at a press conference Tuesday at O’Donnell Hall where he was officially introduced.

“Coach Kidd has a legacy here that is almost overwhelming,” Hood said. “This job is one of the premier jobs, I think, in college football. So, it’s an honor to stand up here today.”

Hood was an assistant coach from 1994 to 1998 under Kidd, serving as secondary coach and defensive coordinator (1997-98), and he still had very strong ties to Madison County. His wife, Crystal, is from Richmond and most of her family still lives in the area.

For those obvious reasons, Hood was immediately interested when contacted by Sandy. But, he also had some other reasons to be a bit hesitant.

During his seven seasons at Wake Forest, Hood had a great deal of success turning the Demon Deacon’s defense into one of the most successful units in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Wake won a school-record 11 games along with a league title in 2006, played in a Orange Bowl the next year and defeated Connecticut last month in the Meinke Car Care Bowl.

His wife had also just given birth to the couple’s fourth child, Daven, on Dec. 14

“My mind was really blown and I told Mark that I had a lot of questions,” Hood said. “He told me that he would fly down there and answer them for me. I was really intrigued about the job, but I was thinking that I had to have this job after talking to Mark Sandy. We talked for four hours and it felt like it was 45 minutes.”

Sandy said during Tuesday’s press conference that he had talked to 10 to 15 potential candidates during the process and that five coaches emerged as the school’s top choices.

Hood was the only one offered the job. He agreed to a four-year contract which will pay him $175,000 a season.

“All other things being equal, we wanted someone who was grounded in the EKU football family,” Eastern Kentucky University President Dr. Doug Whitlock said. “Mark talked with a lot of people who met most of the characteristics (we were looking for), all except for (a close relationship to the program). We talked to several people who met all of the (characteristics) and we will be eternally grateful to those who made themselves available for our consideration. But, Mr. Sandy’s recommendation to me, which I quickly concurred, was for Dean Hood to become our next football coach.”

Sandy and Whitlock both wanted to move quickly so that a new coach would be in place well before national signing day, which is Feb. 6.

Hood spoke extensively about his relationship and admiration for Kidd on Tuesday, even telling a few light-hearted stories about the Hall of Fame coach. He pointed to Kidd, Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez as the biggest influences on his coaching career.

“Roy Kidd plays to win,” Hood said. “Fun is winning and that’s they way he has always been and always will be.”

Kidd was on hand for the press conference and was very pleased that Hood had been selected to lead the program he had built into a national power. The legendary coach said he was involved in the process only in an advisory role, but that he definitely wanted the next coach to have strong ties to the school.

“I wanted an EKU guy,” Kidd said. “I had many calls and many people asking me about the job. Some asked me if I was pushing for an EKU guy. I’m an honest guy and I told them yes.”

Hood said he planned to meet with the current coaching staff as soon as possible and would determine very soon what, if any, changes he wanted to make. He also indicated he would jump right into the recruiting process immediately as well.

Almost all of Hood’s coaching experience during his distinguished career, which includes stints at Fairmont State, Colgate, Glenville State and Ohio University, has been as a defensive coordinator or secondary coach. When asked about what style of offense he might run in his first-ever head coaching position, Hood indicated that he would prefer a run-oriented offense — much like the Colonels relied heavily on during Kidd’s tenure.

Hood kept his opening remarks short during the press conference, but did get a bit emotional at times. He was able to keep his composure and in the end delivered a simple, direct message to everyone associated with the school’s football program.

“My promise to all the people here at Eastern Kentucky University and to the president, the athletic director, my family and my God is that every Saturday we will deserve victory,” Hood said.

The new coach already has close ties to one current Colonel. Junior quarterback Allan Holland was recruited by Hood and developed a good relationship with him during his one, and only, season at Wake.

“He’s a real good guy,” Holland said of Hood. “He’s really family-oriented. He’s a hard worker and he’s going to shoot you straight. He’s not going to beat around the bush and BS you. He wants to win and he’s going to put you in position to win.”

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