Four days following the unexpected departure of head coach Mark Hudspeth, athletics director Gerald Harrison has seemingly found his man.
On Wednesday, June 8, Marquase Lovings was officially introduced as interim head coach for Austin Peay football in 2020. Lovings served as a defensive line coach for the Governors last season.
“As we began the process of looking for our next leader, it was important that I listened to our student athletes and our staff,” Harrison said. “Their passion and excitement about the opportunity to defend the OVC championship title under the leadership of coach Lovings was obvious. After talking with Marquase, there is no doubt that he has a plan for every aspect of our program.”
Continuity was a matter of importance when making the interim decision for Harrison. The athletics director additionally announced Lovings’ temporary position lasting throughout the entirety of the upcoming season. Lovings and Harrison have had discussions of making the role permanent, dependent on the team’s success in 2020.
“This job will never be about me,” Lovings said in a statement. “It will always be about us. We have a great staff surrounding our young men. I want to say thank you to them for providing stability. I have been in a foxhole with these men, and I know right now that they will not blink.”
Despite the turmoil that comes with a coaching change amidst a global pandemic, Lovings reported a favorable response from the hire throughout the program.
“I think it’s been nothing but positive, I really do. Obviously, when you get news like that, I think you can be shook, but just having stability, all of our staff is continuing to be here and I’m here,” Lovings said. “I think, just like having a two-parent household, it works out a little bit better.”
The Governors will be an athlete-led team in 2020, according to Lovings. The coach, alongside Harrison, expect to maintain their level of success heading into the beginning of the season.
“Our expectations don’t change,” Harrison said on what he anticipates out of the coach. “Our program is strong, and our expectations are to compete for an OVC Championship… That starts with winning at home, trying to win our games in defense of Fortera Stadium. Then, we want to win the Sergeant York Trophy, and we want to win the OVC, get into the playoffs and keep winning there. The leadership has changed, but our goals for this program have not.”
Precautions have been set in place for the restart of athletics, as members of the program were tested for coronavirus Wednesday prior to their return on July 12. Upon athletes’ arrival to campus, an additional test will be administered to players before participating in walk through portions of workouts.
As it stands, the Governors will begin their title defense in Montgomery, Ala. as part of the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff.
Harrison, Lovings and the entirety of the program are confident in their ability for a conference championship and beyond for the upcoming season.
“We have a lot of talent, there’s no bare bones about it,” Lovings said. “We looked through the roster yesterday and just looked at how much talent we have here. There are no excuses, our staff knows that. We understand the expectation of not only the university but the athletic department. We’re not here to lose, I’ll tell you that much. We are here to win. The Govs are coming.”