Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Contact: Joe Onderko

Westminster College Hires Lawrence County Native Jeff Hand as Head Football Coach

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - After two successful stints as a Division III head football coach, Jeff Hand is coming home to Lawrence County.

The 34-year-old Hand, a native of Ellwood City, Pa., and graduate of Ellwood City Lincoln High School, has been hired as the new head football coach at Westminster College. He replaces Jerry Schmitt, who left Westminster after five seasons at the helm (28-21 overall record (.571) from 2000-04) to become the head coach at NCAA Division I-AA Duquesne University.

"We are pleased to welcome Jeff Hand as our new head football coach," said Jim Dafler, Westminster Director of Athletics. "As an Ellwood City native, Jeff has an understanding and appreciation for Westminster football and the Titan Tradition. His commitment to the academic success of his players and his involvement in all phases of student and campus life has been evident."

Hand becomes the 32nd head football coach in Westminster history (dating back to 1891), but just the fifth full-time coach at the College since 1952. He takes over a Titan football program with a deep tradition of gridiron success, following in the footsteps of legendary coaches such as Dr. Harold Burry (127-31-5 (.794) from 1952-71) and Dr. Joseph B. Fusco (154-34-3 (.814) from 1972-90), both coaching inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as Gene Nicholson (64-25-2 (.699) from 1991-98).

Westminster won an unprecedented six NAIA Division II National Championships (1970, '76, '77, '88, '89, '94) and had 11 undefeated regular seasons prior to joining the NCAA in 1998. The Titan football program has posted 49 winning seasons (.500 or better) in the past 53 years and has posted an overall 75.4 winning percentage (376-119-10) since 1952. Last year, Westminster was 5-5 (2-3 and fourth place in the six-team PAC) in Schmitt's final season as head coach.

"I am excited to have the opportunity to coach at such a fine academic and athletic institution as Westminster," said Hand. "I have tremendous respect for the rich Titan athletic tradition. Growing up just 20 miles away in Ellwood City, I saw the program firsthand when it was at the pinnacle of athletic success."

Hand takes over the Titan football program after spending the last four years (2001-04) at Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) rival Waynesburg College, where he posted a 24-18 overall record. His best season was in 2003, as he led the Yellow Jackets to a 9-1 regular season mark and the program's first-ever PAC Championship. Waynesburg advanced to the NCAA Division III Playoffs for the first time in school history, falling at Bridgewater (Va.) College 28-24 in an opening round contest. For his efforts, Hand was named PAC and NCAA Division III All-Region II Coach of the Year. Last season, Waynesburg was 7-3 overall in the regular season and was selected to compete in the ECAC Division III Southeast Bowl, where they dropped a 26-23 decision at Johns Hopkins University. The 2003-04 campaigns marked the first consecutive seven-win seasons at Waynesburg since the 1966-68 seasons.

"Jeff possesses great knowledge of the PAC, is widely respected in the collegiate coaching ranks, and has been a highly visible and effective recruiter in western Pennsylvania," Dafler said. "As a head coach, Jeff brings a level of experience and understanding that will serve him well."

Prior to taking the Waynesburg position, Hand served two years as head coach at Benedictine (Ill.) College, posting a 13-7 mark (6-4 in 1999, 7-3 in 2000). It marked the first time the Eagles had posted back-to-back winning seasons since the 1988-89 campaigns. Hand coached three All-Americans during his two seasons at Benedictine.

Hand began his collegiate coaching career as defensive line coach at Waynesburg in 1992. He then moved to Hanover (Ind.) College where he served as defensive line coach (1993-94) and linebackers coach/special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator (1994-97). While at Hanover, he helped guide the Panthers to three conference championships and a pair of undefeated regular season records (10-0 in both 1995 and 1997), while his defensive and special teams units were both nationally-ranked. He was named defensive coordinator at Benedictine in 1998, leading the Eagle defense to a national ranking as high as fifth in the country, before being named head coach the following season.

One consistent trait of Hand's teams has been strong academic achievement. His teams at Benedictine earned a cumulative 3.1 team grade-point average. At Waynesburg, his teams have produced 34 PAC Academic Honor Roll (3.6 GPA or higher during semester of competition) members during the past four seasons, including a conference-high 10 honorees in 2004. Hand was also responsible for the implementation and coordination of the Study Zone, a tutoring program at Waynesburg.

A 1992 graduate of Clarion University, Hand earned a master's degree at Indiana University Southeast in 2000. He comes from a family of football coaches, joining his older brothers Bill (former head coach at Riverside High School and now offensive line coach at NAIA member Geneva College) and Nick (defensive line coach at North Hills High School).

Jeff Hand - Career Head Coaching Record
Year School Record Notable
1999 Benedictine (Ill.) 6-4
2000 Benedictine (Ill.) 7-3 Second place in Illini-Badger Conference
2001 Waynesburg (Pa.) 3-7
2002 Waynesburg (Pa.) 5-5
2003 Waynesburg (Pa.) 9-2 School's first-ever PAC Championship
School's first-ever NCAA Division III playoff berth
Hand named PAC/NCAA D-III Region 2 Coach of the Year
2004 Waynesburg (Pa.) 7-4 ECAC Southeast Bowl
Overall (six seasons) 37-25 (.597)

hhand - Head shot of new Titan head football coach Jeff Hand
handpc1 - Hand speaking at the press conference announcing his hiring at Westminster on May 6, 2005 handfuscogene - Hand flanked at the press conference by former Titan head football coaches (l-r) Joe Fusco (1972-90) and Gene Nicholson (1991-98)


Joe Onderko
Sports Information Director
Westminster College/Presidents' Athletic Conference
102 Old Main, 319 S. Market Street
New Wilmington, PA 16172-0001
P-(724) 946-6357
F-(724) 946-7187