Chris Hatcher was named Samford’s 36th head football coach on Dec. 11, 2014.
Now entering his third season at Samford, Hatcher boasts a career record of 134-67 in 17 years as a college head coach, having previously coached at Murray State, Georgia Southern and Valdosta State.
Last season, Hatcher led the team to a 7-5 record and a spot in the NCAA Division I-FCS Playoffs. The 7-5 record marked the program’s sixth-straight winning season, the longest streak in program history.
Under Hatcher’s tutelage, quarterback Devlin Hodges set school records for single-season completions (375), attempts (530), passing yards (4,088) and touchdown passes (36). Hodges was named the SoCon’s Offensive Player of the Year and a third team All-American at the conclusion of the season.
As a unit, the Samford offense ranked third among all FCS schools in passing offense, averaging 349.4 passing yards per game. The offense also ranked sixth in the nation in red zone offense (90.2%), 11th in team passing efficiency (155.24), 12th in scoring offense (35.1 ppg.) and 14th in total offense (446.2 ypg.).
In his first season at Samford in 2015, Hatcher put his stamp on the Bulldog program. Samford finished the season third in the nation in passing offense (332.9 ypg.), seventh in the nation in total offense (479.7 ypg.) and seventh in fourth down conversions (66.7%). Hatcher’s special teams also stood out, ranking fifth nationally in kickoff return average (24.34 ypr.).
Hatcher led the Bulldogs to a 6-5 record that first season, ending the season with a pair of impressive Southern Conference road wins at Wofford and Mercer. The 2015 team also produced a pair of All-Americans in cornerback James Bradberry and place-kicker Anthony Pistelli.
Hatcher came to Samford after serving as the head coach at Murray State University from 2010 to 2014. In five seasons as the head coach of the Racers, Hatcher’s teams employed the high-powered “Hatch Attack” offense to top the Division I-FCS football charts. In 2014, the Racers ranked second in the nation in passing offense, averaging 327.2 yards per game. The team also ranked 15th in total offense at 468.3 yards per contest.
MSU used a balanced attack in 2013. The Racers rushed the ball 424 times, while throwing it 458, in averaging 398.6 yards of offense. The offense was spearheaded by All-America wide receiver Walter Powell, who hauled in 66 passes for 837 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 10 games.
The 2012 Murray State offense led the Ohio Valley Conference for the third-straight season. MSU averaged a school-record 484.4 yards of offense per game, while also setting a new single-season record by averaging 348.9 yards through the air.
The 2011 season saw the Racers go 7-4 and post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons. MSU closed the season winning five of its final six games, including going on the road and knocking off nationally-ranked Tennessee Tech.
The Racer offense was among the most prolific in the nation as MSU ranked third in scoring offense, fourth in total offense and seventh in passing offense. The 5,070 yards of total offense marked just the fifth time in school history MSU amassed over 5,000 yards, while the 460.9 yards per game were the third-most all time. The Racers also rushed for 152.27 yards per game.
The defense was not to be outdone as the Racers recorded their first shutout in seven years with a 39-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State. It also marked the first shutout on the road since 1986, and the first non-conference road shutout since the 1979 season.
In 2010, the Racer offense led the OVC in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense, while ranking fourth nationally in passing offense, fifth in total offense and fifth in scoring offense.
Hatcher is no stranger to the Southern Conference, as he served as the head coach at Georgia Southern from 2007 to 2009.
In his first season with the Eagles in 2007, Hatcher led GSU to the second-best regular season turnaround in program history, a plus-4 improvement from 2006. The Eagles ranked among the national leaders in various categories on offense, defense and special teams.
He also coached five All-America players, including quarterback Jayson Foster, the second Walter Payton Award winner at GSU.
The Eagles returned to the national rankings after a 14-week hiatus as the Hatcher era got off to a 4-1 start. GSU climbed as high as No. 11, after the Eagles recorded three-straight victories at No. 5 Appalachian State, ending the Mountaineers 30-game home winning streak, at home against No. 25 The Citadel and at No. 10 Wofford.
The prolific offense ranked first in rushing, eighth in total offense, eighth in scoring offense and 23rd in sacks allowed. The defense was 14th in turnover margin and 17th in fumbles recovered, while the special teams ranked 25th in net punting.
The 2008 season saw Hatcher guide the Eagles to the program’s 25th winning season in 27 years.
In late October, the Eagles set an NCAA record for the largest fourth-quarter comeback as GSU erased a 31-3 deficit for a thrilling 38-31 overtime victory at Western Carolina. The OT contest was just the first of an NCAA record four overtime games played by the Eagles in 2008.
Hatcher’s team provided impressive numbers in all three phases. The offense ranked 20th nationally in passing and scoring, while the defense ranked 26th in sacks and 22nd in tackles-for-loss. The special teams units finished 14th in punt returns and 36th in kickoff returns.
All of this was done as Hatcher and his staff were forced to play close to 30 freshmen on a consistent basis throughout the season. In all, five Eagles received All-SoCon honors and seven freshmen representing offense, defense and special teams were named to the inaugural SoCon All-Freshman Team.
Prior to his time at GSU, Hatcher molded Valdosta State into one of the most dominant teams in Division II.
The winningest coach in Blazers’ history, Hatcher was 76-12 at his alma mater. In his first year back at VSU, Hatcher took a 4-7 squad the previous year and produced a 10-2 overall record (8-1 in GSC action) and a berth in the Division II playoffs. He coached quarterback Dusty Bonner, who was a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year, an award Hatcher won himself in 1994.
His 2001 and 2002 teams posted back-to-back undefeated records during the regular season, part of a Gulf South Conference record 35 straight victories during the regular season.
During the 2004 championship season, the Blazers lost their season-opener before rattling off 13 consecutive victories, capped by a 36-31 victory over Pittsburg State in the title game. Hatcher was named National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and was the offensive coordinator for the East squad at the Hula Bowl.
In 2005, Valdosta opened the season ranked No. 1 for four-straight weeks and saw the season culminate with a sixth-straight NCAA postseason appearance. Despite an 8-2 record in 2006, the 10th-ranked Blazers did not receive an invitation to the playoffs, marking the first time that occurred in the Hatcher era.
The 2006 team finished sixth nationally in passing offense (283 yards per game), 12th in scoring offense (34.9 ppg.) and 19th in total offense (389.9 ypg.). In addition to the offensive success, the 2006 defense ranked 27th nationally in scoring defense (15.7 ppg.) while the special teams ranked third in punt returns (17.3 ypr.) and blocked seven kicks.
The Macon, Ga., native spent one year as quarterbacks/tight ends coach at the University of Central Florida where he worked with future NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He then spent three years working with the quarterbacks at the University of Kentucky where he worked under former VSU head coach Hal Mumme. During his time with the Wildcats, he coached the No. 1 NFL draft pick, All-America quarterback Tim Couch.
While at UK, Hatcher and the Wildcats played in the 1999 Outback Bowl, the program’s first New Year’s Day Bowl in 47 years, then followed that the following year with a berth in the ’99 Music City Bowl. It marked the first time the Wildcats had consecutive bowl appearances in 15 years.
Hatcher carried his success on the playing field to help him develop into one of the nation’s winningest coaches. A two-time All-American quarterback at VSU (1993 and 1994), Hatcher threw for 11,363 yards and 121 touchdowns during his stellar career. During his senior year in 1994, he led the Blazers to their first postseason berth, advancing to the quarterfinals, and when it was all said and done set 29 VSU passing and total offense records.
Among the national records he once set were a 68.5 career completion percentage and a streak of 20-straight completions in a game against New Haven. Hatcher held 14 Valdosta State, 13 Gulf South Conference and 17 Division II national records. He also started 41 consecutive games, posting a 29-10-2 record.
Not only did Hatcher excel on the field, he was just as successful in the classroom. Twice he received the Gulf South Conference’s Commissioner’s Trophy which is awarded to the league’s Most Outstanding Student-Athlete. He finished his senior year by winning several national honors including: the NCAA Top Eight Award, the CoSIDA Academic All-America National Player of the Year and a postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.
At the time when Hatcher won the Harlon Hill Trophy, he won by the second-largest voting margin in the then-19-year history of the award. Hatcher was also voted to the GSC Football team of the 1990s.
The honors continued to add up even after his playing days. Hatcher was named to the Valdosta State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility. He was also elected into the Macon Sports Hall of Fame the same year.
In 2005, Hatcher was inducted into the Division II Hall of Fame. Hatcher was also inducted into the inaugural class of the GSC Hall of Fame in 2014.
Hatcher graduated from Valdosta State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.
He and his wife, Lori, also a graduate of VSU, are the parents of a son, Ty, and daughter, Talley.