Eastern Kentucky University introduced new head football coach Mark Elder at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 10. Elder served as the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Tennessee since 2013.
"I couldn't be more excited to welcome Mark and his family to EKU," Director of Athletics Steve Lochmueller said. "Eastern Kentucky University football has a national championship tradition and I am confident Mark Elder is the coach that will bring excitement back to Colonel football and make EKU a factor again on the national stage."
"I'm excited, blessed and honored for the opportunity to lead one of the most tradition rich programs in college football," Elder said. "It didn't take me long to realize that this is a special place. Lindsey and I look forward to becoming a part of the Richmond community."
Elder is the 14th head coach in program history.
"It is humbling to have the opportunity to lead the same program that legendary coach Roy Kidd built into a national powerhouse," said Elder. "It's important to me that we maintain the standards, both on and off the field, that coach Kidd established during his Hall of Fame career."
Over his past 11 seasons as an assistant coach, Elder has helped his teams reach nine bowl games and win four conference championships. In 2014 he was ranked as one of the top-50 recruiters in the nation. This season he was recognized as one of the top-25 recruiters in college football.
"We had a group of outstanding candidates to lead Colonel football," said Lochmueller. "Eastern Kentucky University football carries a lot of weight throughout the coaching world. This is a place where people want to be."
As a member of Butch Jones' inaugural staff, the Cincinnati native helped lead the revitalization of Volunteer football over the past three seasons. He helped UT to an 8-4 record this season and a second place finish in the Southeastern Conference East Division with a 5-3 mark. It is Tennessee's first winning record in SEC play since 2007. The Volunteers are slated to play Northwestern in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
In just their second season in Knoxville, Elder helped Jones and the Vols to a 7-6 mark in 2014 and a 45-28 victory over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. It was Tennessee's first winning record in five seasons and first bowl win since the end of the 2007 campaign.
"Eastern Kentucky has not only hired an outstanding football coach, but an even better person, teacher, mentor and motivator in Mark Elder," said Jones. "I would like to congratulate and also thank Mark for nine great years. I am very excited for the opportunity he, his wife Lindsey and son Owen are about to take on and I wish them all the best at Eastern Kentucky."
Elder helped the University of Michigan reach bowl games as a defensive graduate assistant in 2005 and 2006. He then joined Jones' first staff at Central Michigan University. Elder coached the Chippewa linebackers for three seasons (2007-09). During that time, CMU qualified for three bowl appearances and won two Mid-American Conference Championships.
When Jones made the jump to the University of Cincinnati before the 2010 season, Elder joined the Bearcat staff as the tight ends coach. He also coached running backs, safeties and special teams at various times. The duo found similar success at UC, winning two Big East Conference Championships and getting Cincinnati into two bowl games in three seasons.
"One of the things that I really like about Mark is he's a very well-rounded coach," Lochmueller said. "He has coached on the defensive side, the offensive side and on special teams. He has a strong background of success coaching each phase of the game. He also has coached at a variety of different levels of college football, all the way from Division II to the top of the mountain in college football – the SEC."
This season, Elder's guidance helped Tennessee lead the nation in kickoff returns (33.41 ypr) and rank second in punt returns (18.26 ypr). The Volunteers had the second best kickoff return defense in the SEC and 15th-best in the nation (18.23 ypg).
UT's Evan Berry led the nation, and will break the UT record, with an average of 38.3 yards per kickoff return. Cameron Sutton led the country with an average of 18.7 yards per punt return. Berry was second nationally with three kickoff returns for touchdowns while Sutton was second with two punt returns for touchdowns. Sutton also broke a 46-year-old program record for punt return yards in a season.
Trevor Daniel was eighth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. If he maintains that average through the bowl game he will establish a new school record.
Elder will likely be named the national special teams coach of the year.
Tight end Ethan Wolf caught 21 passes, including at least one catch in each of the first 11 games of the season, for 277 yards. He hauled in two touchdown receptions and averaged 13.2 yards per reception. Elder's tight ends also helped UT average 223.5 yards per game on the ground, the second best total in the SEC.
In 2014, Elder mentored placekicker Aaron Medley as he made 20-of-26 field goals, the second-most among freshmen in the nation. Tennessee ranked 11th nationally in punt return defense (3.23 ypr) and 14th in kickoff return average (24.03 ypr).
In his first season in Knoxville, Elder helped punter/placekicker Michael Palardy become a semi-finalist for the prestigious Ray Guy Award.
While coaching the running backs at Cincinnati in 2011 Elder tutored Isaiah Pead, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and the first Bearcat in nearly 25 years to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. UC led the Big East in rushing and averaged 33.3 points per game. Cincinnati capped the season with a victory over Vanderbilt in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
In 2010, Elder guided tight end Ben Guidugli to second team All-Big East honors.
In three seasons at Central Michigan, Elder produced an all-conference linebacker each year. Red Keith finished his career with 474 tackles, the second-most in CMU history and seventh-most in NCAA Bowl Subdivision history.
Elder worked with All-Big Ten linebackers David Harris and Shawn Crable at Michigan. In 2006 the Wolverine defense led the nation in rushing yards allowed (43.4 ypg) and ranked 10th in total defense (268.3 ypg).
Elder also served as the defensive coordinator at Wayne State (2004) and Iona (2003). He was assistant coach at Lehigh in 2002 and a graduate assistant with Akron in 2000 and 2001.
Elder graduated cum laude with a degree in economics from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio in 2000. He earned a master's degree in education in sports science and coaching from Akron in 2001.
"Mark is a man of high character and he is a good family man," Lochmueller said. "He perfectly fits my vision for a coach at EKU. He's an energetic, up and coming coach that aspires to be great."
Football tickets for 2016 can be reserved by calling, toll free, 844-3-GOBIGE. A ticket office representative will assist with details on the new season.