Former Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson and Rice head coach Ken Hatfield has been named the 2015 recipient of the AFCA’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The award, which honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football,” will be presented to Hatfield at the AFCA Awards Luncheon on January 13 during the 2015 AFCA Convention in Louisville, Ky.
Hatfield retired from coaching football at Rice in 2005 after making stops at Air Force, Arkansas and Clemson. Hatfield won a total of four conference championships (three Southwest Conference titles, 1988-89, 1994, and one Atlantic Coast Conference, 1991); led his teams to 10 bowl games and posted a career record of 168-140-4. During Hatfield’s coaching career, he guided three different schools to 10-win seasons and is one of only a handful of coaches to lead three different teams to Top 20 seasons in FBS.
“When Grant Teaff called and told me I was the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award recipient, my first thought was shock. My next thought was how honored I am to win such an award. Then I started thinking of my junior high and high school coaches who kept me out of trouble and taught me a lot of great lessons about life through football. The game of football is great because of everything that you can learn from it. It was an honor to play the sport, then it was an honor to coach it and work alongside a lot of great men who were outstanding coaches,” said Hatfield.
Ken Hatfield was born on June 6, 1943 in Helena, Arkansas. In college, Hatfield starred as a defensive back and outstanding punt returner for Arkansas. During his playing days, Hatfield earned Academic-All-American honors and was a part of the 1964 team that claimed the program’s first and only national title. Hatfield led the nation in punt return yards in 1963 and 1964, and remains the only player in college football history to finish in the Top 2 in punt returns for three straight seasons; he finished second as sophomore in 1962.
In 1964, Hatfield earned all All-Southwest Conference honors and returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against Texas, helping the Razorbacks to a 14-13 win in what would be considered a pivotal moment for Arkansas’ 1964 championship season. Following a successful playing career at Arkansas and graduating with a degree in accounting, Hatfield went straight into coaching, first at the high school level, then as an assistant at Army before landing at Tennessee in 1968. After spending three years with the Volunteers, Hatfield moved on as an assistant coach at Florida from 1971-77 until he arrived at Air Force as the offensive coordinator in 1978.
Following one season as the offensive coordinator, Hatfield became the head coach and turned the program towards dominance in the early 1980’s. Hatfield led the Falcons to back-to-back bowl victories in 1982 and 1983. In 1983, Hatfield coached the program to its first 10-win season and was named AFCA National and Regional Coach of the Year, and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year. After five seasons at Air Force, Hatfield became the head coach at Arkansas in 1984.
In his six seasons in Fayetteville, Hatfield took his teams to bowl games every year that he served as head coach, and coached them to three 10-win seasons. He guided the Razorbacks to a 55-17-1 record and back-to-back Southwest Conference titles in 1988 and 1989. Hatfield remains the winningest coach (by winning percentage .760) in Razorback history. Following the 1989 season, Hatfield left Arkansas to become the head coach at Clemson, where he cleaned the program’s image from sanctions that occurred prior to his arrival. Hatfield led the Tigers to three bowl games during his four years and a 32-13-1 record.
In 1994, Hatfield took over at Rice, which would be his final coaching stop. In Hatfield’s inaugural season, he led the Owls to a share of the Southwest Conference championship. Hatfield guided Rice to three winning seasons and tremendous victories in rivalry games against SMU and Tulsa.
Hatfield’s coaching career has been earmarked by balanced success, both offensively and defensively. The final 18 teams that Hatfield coached all went on to finish in the Top 20 nationally in rushing offense. In 2004, Hatfield and the Owls led the country in rushing yards, averaging, 306.5 rushing yards per game. While at Arkansas, Hatfield coached his teams to lead the nation in turnover margin, including the 1988 Razorbacks that finished first in the nation in this category. Defensively, six of his teams finished in the Top 15 fewest rushing yards allowed per season, and in 1990, his Clemson Tigers finished the season ranked first in the nation in total defense.
Hatfield was the 2004 AFCA president, and also served as the president of the American Football Coaches Foundation. He has won several awards both as a coach and player, including AFCA Coach of the Year, Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year, three-time AFCA Regional Coach of the Year, been inducted into both the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor, and named a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ all-time team, to name a few.