Austin Peay names Marquase Lovings as interim football coach
Marquase Lovings was named the Austin Peay football team's interim head coach Tuesday after the sudden resignation of Mark Hudspeth on Friday.
Lovings, 36, spent the past season as the Govs' associate head coach and defensive line coach as Austin Peay finished 11-4, won a share of the OVC championship and earned the program's first FCS playoff appearance.
Lovings will have the aid of Hudspeth's entire coaching staff that athletics director Gerald Harrison decided to keep intact.
"I am excited to get started and humbled by the opportunity Gerald has given me," Lovings said in a news release. "I really love the fact I get to lead these young men and blessed to have these coaches by my side. We will coach these young men with love and respect but will still be demanding. We want Clarksville and Austin Peay to be proud of this football team both on and off the field."
Lovings helped the Govs finish first in the conference in several defensive categories in 2019, including first in rush defense, sacks and total defense. He also helped guide senior defensive tackle Josephus Smith to an All-OVC honor last fall.
Harrison said he already has received interest from FBS assistant coaches as well as FCS head coaches, but hiring a permanent coach probably will take place shortly after the end of the 2020 season. But Harrison said he wouldn't rule out making a decision before then.
"Could I hire someone now? Yes," Harrison told The Leaf-Chronicle this past weekend. "Should we do it? That's something else. We feel this job is clearly a better job than it was years ago. That's been proven since the position became available (last Friday)."
Lovings' team is trying to recover after 11 football players tested positive for COVID-19. The university suspended all athletic activity on campus early last week.
Harrison said the positive tests have been something the team has been dealing with since the workouts resumed on campus June 13.
"It was a couple of days after our players got back onto campus," he said. "We had a player present symptoms. We tested him and he tested positive. From that point it was about contact tracing and figuring out who he was around and who all was affected."
Harrison said a plan is in place for the players' return. Athletes will have to have a negative test result before returning to campus later this month. After five days, they'll be tested again. If that second test is negative, the athlete will be allowed to resume athletic workouts.
The Govs are scheduled to play Central Arkansas in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff on Aug. 29 and follow that with a trip to Cincinnati on Sept. 3. Austin Peay could be among the favorites to repeat at OVC champions. The OVC football media day is scheduled for July 20.
Prior to Hudspeth's departure, the Govs were ranked as high as No. 13 in several preseason FCS football publications.
"We plan on winning an OVC championship regardless of who is on the sidelines," Harrison said. "That talent and the talent of the existing coaching staff we have right now gives me that confidence."
"I am excited for Marquase, but more importantly I am excited for our student-athletes and our football program,” Harrison said. "After meeting with our student-athletes and coaching staff following Mark (Hudspeth)’s resignation it was clear our best chance to bring another championship to Stacheville this year was promoting Marquase."
In Hudspeth's lone season in Clarksville, he was named the OVC Coach of the Year, and a record seven Governors were named first-team All-OVC among 11 earning postseason recognition from the league. In addition, four Austin Peay players earned All-America recognition, including consensus All-American nickelback Kordell Jackson.
Hudspeth signed a contract extension through 2024 in December that could have seen his pay increase by $45,000 if he had stayed through the length of the contract. His original contract, signed in December 2018, was for five years at $250,000 per year. That would have been bumped to $272,500 for the 2020 season. He did not give a reason for his departure, calling it a "personal" decision.
Reach George Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.