UVa-Wise officials announced on Dec. 17 that Dane Damron is the program’s fourth head football coach.
Damron comes to UVa-Wise from Eastern Kentucky University, where he spent seven seasons; the last five as Eastern Kentucky’s offensive coordinator. He emphasized program improvement when asked about his goals for next season.
“We’ve got to make sure our kids understand the responsibility that comes with being a football player,” Damron said. “We’ve got to do better in the classroom, we’ve got to be better citizens and then when you take care of the classroom and you take care of citizenship, results will generally follow on the scoreboard.”
UVa-Wise athletic director Danny Sterling also spoke about the expectations for Coach Damron next season.
“Improve the program; give us a better product so there’s not a specific quantity,” Sterling said. “We’re not going out and saying you’ve got to win X number of games or we expect A, B or C. We just want an improved product on the field and eventually we’ll set some specific goals.”
Damron, who has been coaching for 22 years, has a reputation for producing high-octane offenses. In 2012, Eastern Kentucky averaged 200 rushing and 200 passing yards per game. Last year, Damron’s offense set a NCAA FCS record as it recorded 123 offensive snaps in a single game. Additionally, Eastern Kentucky rushed for at least 1,700 yards in each of the five seasons that Damron controlled the offense.
Eastern Kentucky won at least six games in each of the five seasons that Damron was at the helm of the offense. The Colonels won nine games in 2014 after winning eight in 2012.
Damron began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky. He moved on to a stint at Morehead State before becoming the offensive coordinator at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Florida. Next, Damron moved on to become head coach at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland. Lake Gibson won their first playoff game in school history under Damron.
After moving on from Florida, Damron went back to Kentucky and became the head coach at Boyd County High School in Ashland. He returned to collegiate coaching in 2007 and led Kentucky Christian University during their first season in program history in 2008.
When asked how he thought his background in coaching would help him succeed in Wise, Damron said, “Well, I’ve had the opportunity to start a program from ground zero at Kentucky Christian, I’ve had the opportunity to take over two high school football teams that were in similar situations as far as record goes.”
Damron also spoke of his assistant coaches and some of their accomplishments.
“Right now, I’ve got six and hopefully we can get a couple of others that share the vision that we’re going to have here,” Damron said. “I’ve got coaches that have coached for 25 years. I have one that has coached in the SEC. Our offensive line coach (Mike Compton) has two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots, so there is a lot of experience on this staff, there is no question about that. So I’m excited about them.”
Damron played college football at Georgetown College in Kentucky, where he was a starting quarterback and a two-time All-American. During his sophomore season, Damron led Georgetown to the 1991 NAIA National Championship.
When asked what caused former UVa-Wise coach Dewey Lusk to resign, Sterling said, “Again, I don’t want to speak for Coach Lusk, but I think in the end, it was the wins and losses. Coach Lusk, as we all are, are competitive people, so I’m sure those are some things that played into it.”
Sterling also commented on whether the college gave Coach Lusk the number of wins that he was expected to reach.
“We talked about it a little bit, but we didn’t give him a specific number of wins,” Sterling said. “We kind of said the same thing: this is the first year of active membership in the NCAA. We wanted him the same way as Coach Damron: to have an improved product.”
UVa-Wise will continue with spring practices and workouts in an effort to put a more improved product on the field next season.