Lest anyone think going back to being a head coach after a long hiatus from those responsibilities is like riding a bike, Garry McPeek had already planned his Monday night sleep schedule around 10 p.m.
“I think tonight I’m going to sleep like a baby,” the interim Eastern Kentucky University football head coach deadpanned. “I will probably wake up every two hours and cry.”
Branded one-liners aside, McPeek is thrilled to have the opportunity to call the Colonels up, while emphasizing that he’s doing it to support Eastern Kentucky head coach Walt Wells, who has suffered what the school called a “cardiac episode” Sunday morning.
The Colonels announced McPeek’s appointment as interim head coach in a press release Monday afternoon, four days before the start of the season.
“First and foremost, this is Coach Wells’ program, and it’s an honor for me that they have confidence in me to run it while he’s gone,” McPeek said, “and I keep just the seat warm until we get it back.. So grateful to athletic director Matt Roan and (university) president (David) McFaddin for having faith in me to lead these young men.
“My job is just to hold the boat between the navigational buoys and keep it in the right direction. The coach has a great plan and we are going to implement it. »
McPeek filled the role of chief of staff. He was the director of football operations for Eastern Kentucky last season.
“These are not the circumstances in which we hoped to operate,” Roan said in the statement. “Having said that, the appointment of Coach McPeek as interim head coach allows the team to move forward in the most efficient and least disruptive way possible. Coach McPeek is fully committed to the philosophy Coach Wells’ team leader and will do an outstanding job of leading and supporting a tremendous team of coordinators, assistant coaches and support staff.
The Colonels will rely on their offensive and defensive coaching teams to manage their respective side of the ball, McPeek said, as he “will try to take everything off their plate, all the distractions, so they can coach the football.” .
“This program is all about team, team, team,” McPeek continued, “and as Coach Wells says, our job is just to get them on the bus and then they’ll get busy. Business.”
McPeek recognized in the circumstances the value of the opportunity, as well as his responsibility.
“It’s an exciting business to be a Division I football coach,” he said, “and at the same time we want to do him justice. When (Wells) gets better and shoots this movie, we want him to to make proud by playing with our guts and playing hard for him.
Eastern Kentucky opens the season Friday night against Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, Michigan. McPeek expects the short week won’t particularly add to the challenges facing the Colonels, he said, as the team is coming off a ‘big camp’ and preparing for the Eagles. to varying degrees all summer, including seriously last week.
McPeek is a Russell and Morehead State alumnus who spent more than three decades in the football profession. This includes stints as head coach at East Carter (1992-94), Greenup County (1996-97) and Lawrence County (2001-03), athletic director at Russell and Fairview, and in county administration of Boyd and Westwood. .
Seven of its eight high school teams had winning records. The 2001 Bulldogs, McPeek’s top club to date, went 11-1 and climbed to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll.
McPeek also coached the now defunct Huntington Heroes indoor franchise, was twice on the Kentucky Horsemen indoor staff, and worked as an assistant at a handful of other high schools in Kentucky and Georgia.
When McPeek, 55, joined the Eastern Kentucky staff in February 2021, he did not envision running a Division I program as his third act, he said.
“No, no, absolutely not,” McPeek said. “I came in to help Coach Wells, just to play a support role in recruiting and operations, and then I moved to Chief of Staff just to try to help him, to build the program.”
The Colonels think McPeek can do it better right now by taking Wells’ seat. And in addition to his bosses, McPeek got a particularly significant vote of confidence, he said Monday.
“I spoke with Coach Wells’ wife, Miss Jennifer, and she was very supportive of the idea and me taking the reins to keep the seat warm until we got the coach back and he’s recovering,” McPeek said. “Getting the chance to talk to her was hugely important to me, for her to be for, and I wouldn’t have taken the job without her and her approval.”
McPeek is the second coach from Northeastern Kentucky to temporarily serve as Division I football head coach in the past seven years. Lawrence County graduate Gerad Parker ended the 2016 season as interim Purdue boss.
Parker is now a tight ends coach at Notre Dame.
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