Mercer welcomes first modern football coach


Photo by Noah Maier/The Cluster

Photo by Noah Maier/The Cluster

After ending the speculation and 70-year hiatus of football at Mercer last November, the next step in reinstating football in Macon was to hire a head coach. After a two-month search, Bobby Lamb was introduced as Mercer’s 19th head coach, first of the modern era, and will lead the team as they begin NCAA Division I non-scholarship football in September 2013.

Lamb is the coup Mercer was looking for and is a proven winner at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level with a 67-40 overall record in his nine years at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

“Bobby Lamb had the five items we were really looking for in a football coach,” said President William D. Underwood. “He’s got a proven track record at Furman, strong connections to Georgia high school football, he understands the challenges of being at a private university, he’s a man of great personal integrity and, most of all, he’s committed to the academic success of his student athletes,” Underwood added.

In a sport full of statistics, perhaps the most emphasized numbers at the press conference were those of Furman football’s NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) scores—97 percent in 2009-10. Since the NCAA instituted the Academic Progress Rate (APR) system which tracks eligibility and graduation, among other things, Furman has consistently produced the highest scores among the other schools in the Southern Conference.

Lamb’s demeanor and excitement on his first day on the job was impressively contagious. He’s a football man through and through, having spent the past 31 seasons in Furman as a quarterback (1982-85), assistant coach (1986-2001) and head coach (2002-10) after graduating from Commerce (Ga.) High School in 1982 as a state champion and three-year starter. He’s got the booming yet excited voice necessary for a head football coach. He’s simply the embodiment of what Mercer was looking for from the beginning.

“We’ve come a long way during this two-month search process,” said athletic director Jim Cole to kick off the press conference. “When former Baylor football coach Grant Teaff spoke in November at the re-instatement press conference, he told me that we needed two things: a great leader and a great quarterback. We have that great leader now. It’s up to him to find the quarterback,” Cole added jokingly.

With a newly minted head coach, Mercer will have about two and a half years to finish raising the support necessary to fund the program, build a stadium, recruit players and field a team for the fall of 2013.

“Bobby is the next step in painting the picture and formulating the vision of Mercer football,” added Cole. “We’ll be hitting the road soon to raise support and he’s our man.”

Lamb already has plans to quickly build the program from the foundation up.

“We’ve got to start building relationships in the Macon community,” said Lamb. “We’ve got to start recruiting young men who fit the Mercer bill and want to play championship caliber football, especially in such a talent-rich state like Georgia. We’ll put together a skeletal staff to aid in the recruiting process by July 1st and then go from there,” he added.

Effectively recruiting the South is one thing Lamb has learned during his 27 years of coaching at Furman. During his nine-year tenure as the Paladin’s head coach, Lamb took his team to the I-AA (now FCS) playoffs four times, winning the SoCon Championship in 2004.

He also knows how to win the big games that count, defeating North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina as a player at Furman.

“God has provided this tremendous opportunity for me to assist in the reinstatement of football at Mercer and I look forward to leading Mercer football to the top,” Lamb added.

Mercer will play in the Pioneer Conference, one of three non-scholarship football leagues at the NCAA Division I level, with familiar schools Campbell and Jacksonville, as well as their current membership which includes Butler, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Marist, Morehead State, San Diego and Valparaiso.