Valdosta State Blazers football
|Valdosta State Blazers Football|
|Athletic director||Herb Reinhard|
|Head coach||Kerwin Bell
1st year, 0–0–0 (–)
|All-time record||248–113–4 (.685)|
|Bowl record||0–0–0 (–)|
|Claimed nat'l titles||3|
|Colors||Red and Black
|Marching band||Blazin' Brigade Marching Band|
The Valdosta State football team represents Valdosta State University in football. The Blazers are a member of the Gulf South Conference (GSC) in NCAA Division II. Valdosta State University has had a football team since 1981. The Blazers play in Bazemore–Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, Georgia, which has a capacity of 11,249. The Stadium is also the home of the historical Valdosta High School Wildcats, known as "the winningest high school football team in the country". The Blazers have won a total of three Division II National Championship titles (2004, 2007 and 2012).
Despite the demands for a team, Valdosta State University, then Valdosta State College, did not form a football team until 1982. The program began under Valdosta State president Hugh C. Bailey and a majority vote by the VSC student body. In the Blazers first season, under the direction of Head Coach Jim Goodman, the team finished with a 5-5-1 record.
VSC had its first winning season in 1986 with a 9-2 record led by All-American Jessie Tuggle. In 1994 the Blazer won a school record 11 victories, and with quarterback Chris Hatcher, played in the programs first national football tournament. Hatcher was the 1994 Harlon Hill Trophy winner. In 1996, with quarterback Lance Funderburk, the blazers spent a week ranked No. 1 in the country in Division II and were the Gulf South Conference Champions for the first time in School history.
In 2002, the Blazers went to their first National Championship game against Grand Valley State, losing 31-24. In 2004, the Blazers returned to the National Championship, this time defeating Pittsburg State University 36-31. For the 2006 Season the Blazers wore silver helmets to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the VSU football program. In 2007, the Blazers defeated Northwest Missouri State University 25-20 for their second National Championship title. The Blazers also have won 6 Gulf South Conference football championships (1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2010).
Two notable alumni are Jessie Tuggle, National Football League linebacker from 1987-2000 playing his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons, and Chris Hatcher was quarterback in the programs first national football tournament in 1994 and was that year's Harlon Hill Trophy winner. Hatcher was also Valdosta State's head football coach from 2000–2006 and amassed a 68-10 record with one national championship and four conference crowns during his six-year tenure at Valdosta State.
David Dean, former VSU offensive coordinator, is the current football head coach at Valdosta State University. In his first year Dean's Valdosta State team won the 2007 Division II National Championship. Under Dean the Blazers also won the 2012 national title.
- Records are through the end of the 2013 Season
Hal Mumme era: 1992-1996
Mumme took over as head coach at Valdosta State University in 1992. Mumme’s record at Valdosta State was 40-17-1. In both 1994 and 1996 he led the team to the NCAA Division II playoff quarterfinals; Valdosta State had never made the playoffs previously.
In 1994 the Blazer won a school record 11 victories and Quarterback Chris Hatcher won the Harlon Hill Award as player of the year in NCAA Division II football.
The team was consistently ranked in the Division II top 20 and was ranked #1 in the nation in Division II for part of the 1996 season when they won their first Gulf South Conference championship.
Chris Hatcher era: 2000-2006
Chris Hatcher was named the Head Coach of the Blazers in 2000. The "Hatch-Attack" completed its first season 10-2, and were Gulf South Conference Champions with an 8-1 conference record, a dramatic improvement from their previous 4-7 season.
In 2001 and 2002, the Blazers went undefeated during the regular season, and were GSC Champions for the third year in a row. The two seasons were a part of a GSC record 35 straight regular season victories. In 2002 VSU made its first National Championship appearance with a 31-24 loss to Grand Valley State University.
In 2003, the Blazers finished the season with a 10-2 record and an NCAA playoff berth.
In 2004, Hatcher led the Blazers to their second National Championship appearance with and a 36-31 win over Pittsburg State University for the National title. The Blazers were also GSC Champions in 2004 after an 11-1 regular season.
The 2005 season saw the first time the Blazers started the season ranked No. 1 in the polls. The Blazers started the season ranked No. 1 for four weeks but finished with a 9-3 record and their fifth straight playoff berth.
To recognize the 25th anniversary of the VSU football program, the Blazers wore silver helmets and pants in 2006. That year the Blazers missed the playoffs for the first time in the Chris Hatcher Era, despite an 8-2 record and a top-ten ranking.
Hatcher left VSU after the 2006 season to be the head football coach at Georgia Southern University, he left Valdosta State with a 76-12 overall record, a .864 winning percentage, and was the winningest coach in Blazer history.
David Dean era: 2007-2015
In 2007, the "Dean Machine" started the season with five straight wins. Delta State University defeated the Blazers 35-31, despite being down 28 points at the beginning of the second half. The Blazers then capped off the season with an eight-game winning streak and their second National Championship title win against Northwest Missouri State University, 25-20. This was the third straight championship appearance by the Bearcats, also the third straight time the Bearcats have lost the National Championship game.
2008 and 2010 were the only years VSU has made it to the NCAA Division II playoffs since the 2007 National Championship season. 2008 saw the Blazers make it to the second round of the playoffs and a 9-3 season. Valdosta posted an 8-3 record in 2010 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. After beginning the year unranked, the Blazers rose as high as No. 7 in the AFCA coaches poll, before finishing the regular season ranked No. 17. In 2010 the VSU team tied with Delta State and Henderson State for the Gulf South Conference Championship, the only one in Dean's five years as head coach.
In 2009 and 2011 the Blazers had 6-4 seasons and missed the Division II playoffs. In 2009 VSU finished in 3rd in the Gulf South Conference and 4th in 2011. Valdosta had been ranked as high as No. 4 in the AFCA poll in the first weeks of the 2011 season.
In 2012 the Blazers posted a 12-2 record for the year and beat Winston-Salem State University 35-7 in the NCAA Division II National Football Championship in Florence, Alabama. The win gave VSU its third Division II National title in eight years. David Dean is the only football coach in Valdosta State history to win two national championships.
Kerwin Bell era: 2016-Present
After being fired from the Jacksonville Dolphins, he joined the Valdosta Blazers.
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- "Few Changes in AFCA Division II Coaches' Poll". Afca.com. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
- "Gulf South Conference Official Site - Valdosta State Wins 2012 NCAA Football Title". Gscsports.org. 2015-10-14. Retrieved 2015-10-18.