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RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s new football head coach Walt Wells is a familiar name. Wells served as an assistant under legendary EKU Head Coach Roy Kidd from 1997 to 2002 and was an assistant again with the Colonels in 2015. Interim Director of Athletics Mark Sandy announced the hiring of Wells as the 15th head coach in program history on Monday.
A press conference and reception will be held on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Black Box Theatre at the EKU Center for the Arts. All media and fans are invited to attend. Please park on the south side of the Center and enter through the door on the lower left side to reach the Black Box.
Wells most recently served as a quality control assistant at the University of Kentucky during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The 2018 Wildcat team beat Florida for the first time in 32 years, posted the program’s best Southeastern Conference (SEC) record in 41 years and beat No. 12-ranked Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. All totaled, the 10-3 record was Kentucky’s best season in 41 years and only the third 10-win season in school history. In 2019, the Wildcats won seven games and reach bowl eligibility again. UK led the SEC and was fourth in the nation this season in rushing and ranked 15th in the country in sacks allowed.
“I’m excited to be back and be the head football coach at Eastern Kentucky University,” said Wells. “This is a place that is very close to my heart, and my wife Jennifer’s heart. Our daughter was born here and I look forward to bringing my son here too. EKU has a proud tradition and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”
From 2016 to 2017, Wells worked on the staff at the University of Tennessee. He was an offensive quality control coach, working primarily with the offensive line during the 2016 season, and served as the offensive line coach during the 2017 season. He worked closely with the UT line that paved the way for 2,668 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) in 2016. The Vol offense also ranked 24th in the nation in scoring that season (36.4 points per game). Wells coached Freshman All-American and All-SEC left guard Trey Smith. He was ranked as a top-10 national recruiter.
Wells returned to the EKU coaching staff in the spring of 2015 as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach. His work helped the Colonels average 30.3 points per game, the 35th-most in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Lineman Brett Eyckmans earned first team All-Ohio Valley Conference recognition after the 2015 season.
During his first stint with the Colonels, Eastern won the 1997 OVC title with a perfect 7-0 mark and advanced to the NCAA FCS playoffs. Wells served as Kidd’s tight ends coach from 1997 to 1999, and as the offensive line coach from 2000 to 2002. He coached seven All-OVC players and an All-American. EKU ranked among top-15 nationally in rushing in 2001 and 2002.
“Twenty-two years ago I came here and met coach Kidd and his staff,” Wells said. “I learned many valuable lessons that have carried me through my career. I appreciate them pouring their knowledge into me, and I look forward to now passing that on to our team here.”
The veteran coach brings 25 years of college coaching experience to the sidelines as both an offensive line coach and coordinator. Wells has also spent time at Cumberland University, Western Kentucky, South Florida and New Mexico State.
“Walt’s familiarity with EKU and his knowledge of both FCS and FBS football will serve him well as the new head coach of the Colonels,” said Sandy. “I welcome Walt and his family back to EKU and look forward to seeing him continue the championship tradition of Colonel football.”
As the offensive line coach in 2014 at New Mexico State, Wells helped center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke earn All-Sun Belt Conference accolades. The Aggies allowed just 10 sacks all year, which ranked second-best nationally. Ume-Ezeoke went on to sign a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons.
Wells spent the 2013 season at South Florida as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Under Wells, tight end Mike McFarland and tailback Marcus Shaw were named second team All-American Athletic Conference. He also guided wide receiver Andre Davis to a program record in single season receiving yards (735).
Prior to joining the South Florida staff in December 2012, Wells spent 10 years at Western Kentucky working with the offensive line. During the final four years of his stay at WKU, Wells’ role expanded to offensive coordinator and running game coordinator. Four Hilltopper offensive linemen earned All-America honors under Wells’ direction, and Western ranked in the top four in the Sun Belt Conference in rushing each of his final four seasons – leading the league with 181.6 rushing yards per game in 2011 and improving that number to 186.2 yards per game in 2012.
As a result of Wells’ mentoring, Adam Smith, a four-year starter, went on to sign a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2012 season. Wells also coached Greg Ryan, who earned a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.
In Wells’ first season at Western Kentucky in 2003, his offensive line helped pave the way for a unit that gained 5,129 total yards and scored 427 points. Both of those figures ranked in the top five in the school single season record books. The Hilltoppers went to the FCS Playoffs in 2003 and 2004, finished second in the Sun Belt in 2011 and played in the program’s first bowl game in 2012.
Wells’ collegiate coaching career began in 1994 at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He led an offense that twice topped the NAIA in rushing, while helping the Bulldogs reach a top-15 national ranking. Wells also spent two years as an assistant at Smyrna (Tenn.) High School.
Wells earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Belmont in 1993 after transferring from Austin Peay State University where he was on the football team for four years, having started and lettered in two of those seasons. He received a master’s degree in human relations management in 1995 at Cumberland.
Wells and his wife, Jennifer, have two children – Madison and K.J.
“Becoming the head coach at EKU has always been a career goal of mine,” said Wells. “EKU football has, and will always be, A Matter of Pride. I appreciate Chairman Lewis Diaz, President Benson, the Board of Regents and Mark Sandy for this opportunity. Jennifer and I look forward to bringing our family back to Richmond and getting to know the members of this community.”
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Additional Quotes Regarding Walt Wells
“We are excited to welcome Coach Wells back to EKU. His extensive coaching experience will benefit our student-athletes and strengthen our football program. And given Coach Wells’ previous time at Eastern, I know the Richmond community will embrace him and his family immediately.”
President Michael T. Benson, Eastern Kentucky University
“Coach Wells checked all the boxes we looked for in the next EKU football coach. He has the qualities to build on the winning tradition of EKU football and the attributes to engage the community. I am excited for coach Wells to start his own long winning tradition – not only for the past players but our fans. He understands the rich tradition and will embrace that moving forward to the next chapter of EKU football.”
Marc Collins, former Colonel (1992-95)
“As a former player and a parent, it was important to me to find a coach who will connect with the players and help them realize their personal potential in the classroom and on the field. Walt is a great fit for EKU, Richmond and the campus community.”
Bundy McGinnis, former Colonel (1988-91)