In the past 23 months, APSU has introduced three different men to be leaders of their football program.
Through hazy resignations and a short-stinted interim, the Governors hope to have their head coach selected for years to come.
On Nov. 2, Scotty Walden was introduced alongside interim president Danelle Whiteside and Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison as the new head of APSU football.
“I just want to tell everybody: it’s a great day to be a Governor,” Walden said. “I am so blessed and honored to be your head football coach at Austin Peay State University.”
The coach comes from an interim role of his own at Southern Miss, and serves as the youngest head coach at the division one level at the age of 30. Walden replaces former interim Marquase Lovings, who led from the sidelines in three games this fall. Lovings took the place of resigned Governors coach Mark Hudspeth in July.
Harrison and company aim to recreate a winning program though yet another young coach. In 2016, Will Healy, also 30 at the time, was welcomed into the program from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Healy produced 13 wins throughout his three seasons in Clarksville, turning the Govs from a bottom-tier team in the FCS to a competitor for a national title. Harrison hopes that Walden’s energy and charisma brings about a similar result as Healy did three years prior.
“Innovation is something I believe in,” Harrison said. “If you talk to our executive staff, one thing that I harp on in our meetings all the time is ‘What are we doing different?’
“When you talk to [Walden] about the student-athlete and how he relates to players, I think that’s the biggest thing today…I believe coach Walden – after my existing conversation with him – would be someone who could relate to all of our student-athletes. To motivate them, get them fired up and ready to go, not just to win the football game, but to win in life.”
Walden’s tempo-style offense may be difficult to replicate in a three-month turnaround, but the new coach and offensive coordinator is set in the idea of keeping up the pace for the 2021 season.
“We’re going to play very fast,” he said. “We’re going to cut it loose. We’ve got all the time we need, baby. I don’t need much time. We’re going to get in there, cut loose, have fun and play extremely fast. Probably the fastest offense you’ve ever seen.”
The program met on the field for the first time at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. Walden was impressed by the willingness of the current crop of players and coaches to practice throughout adversity.
“That’s one thing that I appreciate about these guys,” he added. “These kids, I can tell, are incredibly resilient already. To go through transition, there’s a lot of reasons why they could’ve slept in this morning and not been out there working. They’re working to go win another OVC championship and go defend their title. I’m excited to join that journey with them.”
The Governors hope to repeat as Ohio Valley Conference champions when their conference schedule begins Feb. 21 at Tennessee Tech.