In his first year at Southeastern the Lions posted a 5-7 record, the fourth best mark for a Division I-A or I-AA startup program since 1980. This season the Lions went 7-4, including a 51-17 win over #6 McNeese State. That win propelled the second-year program into the top 25 in the national I-AA rankings the next week.
Southeastern ranked first among NCAA Division I-AA teams in total offense per game (537.1 yards) and passing offense per game (408 yards).
"One of the reasons I took on the job at Southeastern Louisiana is that I had a reputation as a good offensive coordinator, but not a good manager. How better to prove yourself than start a program? We had one ball, one helmet, one phone and one desk when I got here. In less than three years we’ve built it into a winning program. I think it happened because I got more involved in managing the program."
During his two seasons at Southeastern, the Lions were 10-3 at home and in 2003, led all NCAA Division I-AA schools in attendance per capacity at 126.55 percent. Strawberry Stadium seats 7,408 but expecting great fan support, portable-seating was brought in to accommodate the surge in attendance. SLU sold out four of the six home games and averaged 9,396 per game.
Following the initial season, the university conducted an economic impact study and found that college football at Southeastern had an $8.3 million impact on Hammond and the surrounding region.
"When we hired Hal, he brought three things we were looking for," says Southeastern Louisiana athletics director Frank Pergolizzi. "He had a proven record of success, a proven record of putting a product on the field that was fun to watch, and a proven history of increasing attendance and fan interest.”
“It was a gargantuan task. It involved recruiting players, the mechanics of starting a program, facility renovations, and recruiting a staff. It wouldn’t do a lot of good to create a lot of excitement and go 0-10. It has been terrific and we are very pleased with the progress. We are grateful to Hal for what he has done for us."
While at Kentucky, Mumme put Wildcat football back on the map.
In his first season as head coach, the Wildcats improved from 109th in the nation in total offense to sixth and beat Alabama for the first time in 75 years.
For his efforts he was named the American Football Coaches Association Region 2 Coach of the Year. UK’s five wins were the most for the school since 1993 and the Wildcats swept their non-conference opponents for the first time since 1989.
The next year he took UK to new heights. Mumme led the Wildcats to a victory over #21 LSU, the Wildcat’s first road victory over a ranked team in 21 years. UK finished 7-5 with the season culminating with a trip to the Outback Bowl as Mumme became the first Wildcat coach to take the team to a New Year’s Day bowl game since Bear Bryant in 1951.
In 1999 the Wildcats went 6-6 and played in the Music City Bowl. He was named the South/Southwest Coach of the Year by Football News. College Football Hall of Fame coaches Jerry Claiborne and Bryant are the only other coaches to have taken the Wildcats to consecutive bowl games.
During Mumme’s tenure at Kentucky, Wildcat football players earned academic all-SEC honors 68 times with Jeff Zurcher earning Academic All-America honors.
In 1999, both ends of Commonwealth Stadium were enclosed, along with the construction of 40 suites, 10 in each corner of the stadium. The total number of seats was increased from 57,800 to 67,606.
The year before Mumme arrived in Lexington, the Wildcats averaged 40,647 fans per game. The following year the team averaged 59,110. In 1999, the Wildcats averaged 67,756, still a school record.
"I think Hal Mumme is an excellent football coach," says former University of Kentucky President and member of the NCAA Board of Directors and NCAA Executive Committee Charles Wetherington.
"I believe NMSU has made a good choice. He has a great offensive mind. The fans will love his style of football and that’s very important. He has those kinds of leadership qualities that prove to be successful in any endeavor. If I had the opportunity, I would certainly hire him again."
Mumme’s offensive style is patterned after the successful system used by BYU.
Mumme studied that style while an assistant at UTEP (1982-85) and implemented his system for the first time as head coach at Copperas Cove High School. He has used that system ever since and set record setting numbers wherever he’s been.
"We’ve always wanted to be able to do one thing really well," says Mumme. "If I was going to run the ball, I’d be a wishbone guy. It becomes a ball control offense, which is important. It’s more like basketball than a rugby scrum. Fans can see the ball and people tend to get excited."
"I was looking for someone who played differently than the norm," says former Kentucky athletics director C.M. Newton. "We had a tradition of having some very good football coaches, but not being able to win with the traditional approach. I was looking for someone who did things differently.
The best way to describe it is that you will see a team that presses and fast breaks on grass. It’s a very sound system of football. He uses the pass to set up the run. It’s fun. The thing that I observed is that the players really enjoyed playing. He did a tremendous job. We were able to enlarge our stadium because of the interest. I think Hal is a much better football coach right now than when he came to UK. He learned a lot at Kentucky."
In his first head coaching stint at Iowa Wesleyan, Mumme inherited a program that went 0-10 the previous season and had only three players returning from that squad. In his first year IWC went 7-4 and advanced to the Steamboat Classic. He followed that with seasons of 8-4 and 10-2. The Tigers set numerous school and NAIA records. In one game against Harding in 1989, IWC threw 86 passes, completing an NAIA record 61.
His teams also set school records for most passing yards (538) in a game and most yards of total offense in a game (672). In 1990, the Tigers led the NAIA in passing yards per game at nearly 338 yards per game. In his final season in 1991, the Tigers set NAIA records for most total pass completions (468) and average completions per game (39).
Mumme was the NAIA district coach of the year in 1989 and 1991 and led the Tigers to the postseason all three years, including the NAIA playoffs in 1991.
Mumme was named the head coach at Valdosta State in 1992. In his final year at Valdosta State, the Blazers averaged nearly 39 points and over 484 yards per game. That season the Blazers were ranked #1 in the country and advanced to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals for the second time in three years. The Blazers had never advanced to the NCAA playoffs before Mumme’s arrival.
Mumme was the Gulf South Conference and the AFCA Region II, Division II Coach of the Year in 1996.
"He’s a great guy to play for," says former Valdosta State quarterback and current VSU head coach Chris Hatcher. Hatcher was the NCAA Division II player of the year when Mumme was the head coach at VSU. Hatcher led the Blazers to the national championship this year. "He’s big on putting you in a position to be successful. That’s what you look for the most as a player. You like the style that he brings to the football table. He’s always attacking, always playing to win. If you asked people at Kentucky when is the last time they had a chance to win every game and they will say when Hal Mumme was head coach. I think he will be ultra successful."
Among his former assistant coaches is current Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Leach served on Mumme’s staffs at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State and Kentucky.
The most prominent player that Mumme has coached is former Kentucky star quarterback and the number one player taken in the 1999 NFL draft, Tim Couch.
Couch was named the SEC Male Athlete of the Year in 1999 and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. In his final collegiate season, Couch completed 400 of 553 passes (72.3 percent) for 4,275 yards and 36 touchdowns. His pass completions total was the best in the nation while his yardage total, touchdowns and completion percentage each ranked second in the country.
Mumme’s credentials on the field are impressive, but so is his work in the community.
"I don’t think of Hal without thinking about his wife June," says Wetherington. "Together they were an important part of this community." "They are just good, solid folks," says Newton. "When I was doing my homework in hiring Hal, the one thing that kept coming up was that both he and June were very active in the larger community. They both lived up to that when they came to Lexington."
"Hal is very accessible to our fans, our boosters and alumni and has done a great job in building relationships," says Pergolizzi. “He really is a very down-to-earth, warm-hearted individual."
"Every place we’ve coached and lived we’ve been involved in the community," says Mumme. "I like helping people. It’s an important part of my job." Newton also believes that the team of Boston and Mumme will yield great results for NMSU.
"I think it is a great hire for NMSU and it’s a wonderful opportunity for Hal. I’ve known McKinley (Boston) for a long time. He is one of the top administrators in college athletics. To be able to hire McKinley and then hire Hal sets NMSU up to really be very competitive and strong."
Mumme was born in San Antonio, Texas, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. He played football at New Mexico Military Academy (1970-71) and Tarleton State University (1974-75). He received his bachelor’s degree from Tarleton in 1975.