ADA — Kurt Nichols, a 23-year coaching veteran who directed Cisco (Texas) Junior College to a 7-4 record and a bowl victory this season, was named today to replace Tim McCarty as head football coach at East Central University.

ECU President Dr. Bill Cole and athletic director Dr. Tim Green introduced Nichols at a morning press conference, and Cole said he was optimistic that Nichols could maintain the momentum McCarty established before he left earlier this month to become assistant head coach at Kansas State.

“We’re excited about having Kurt here,” Dr. Cole said. “We felt he was head and shoulders above everybody else we talked to.

“He’s the kind of coach we’ve been looking for,” he added. “He has a lot of the qualities that Coach McCarty had.”

Nichols — Cisco’s head football coach and athletic director for the past six seasons — had his teams consistently among the leaders in offense in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), and the Wranglers capped their 2005 campaign with a 47-28 victory over Dodge City Community College in the Heart O Texas Bowl on Dec. 3.  (In an interesting sidenote, McCarty and new K-State coach Ron Prince served together on the coaching staff at Dodge City in the early ‘90’s).

“This is my third head coaching job,” Nichols said. “I’ve been at the smallest junior college in Texas competing in one of the best juco conferences in the country (the Southwest Junior College Football Conference) for the past six years. 

“We were competitive, even though we were located in a small town and had just basic facilities,” he added. “In the world of coaching, I’ve been in the wilderness. Now I’ve come out of the wilderness.”

The Tigers, who followed a 6-4 campaign in McCarty’s first season with a tough-luck 3-7 record this fall, return six defensive starters and eight offensive starters — including some outstanding skill players — off the 2005 team.  Nichols said he plans to continue the wide open offensive philosophy that was ECU’s trademark late in the season, and he also wants to make recruiting — which had built a lot of early momentum but took a hit when McCarty resigned — an immediate priority.

“I’m going to create a blue-collar attitude,” he said. “We’ll use a no-huddle offense that’s more a pace offense than a hurry-up, and we’ll throw the ball a lot.  We were in the top 20 in the country in offense every year I was at Cisco (the Wranglers were 20th in total offense and 15th in passing offense in the NJCAA in 2005), and we were doing it with a lot less than I’ll have at ECU.

“There’s no way that I’ll get everything done (recruiting-wise) that I want to do by (national) signing day (Feb. 1), but there are some good athletes coming back here, and we’re hoping to supplement them,” Nichols continued. “I will go after some Texas junior college players right away and I know of some good high school players in West Texas. Some of the (opposing) players that worried me when I was at Cisco are guys I’m going to pick up the phone and talk to now.”

Nichols said he didn’t plan to make any immediate changes in McCarty’s staff, opting instead to evaluate the current ECU coaches this winter and during spring drills.

“It’s really premature to comment on the coaching staff right now,” he said, adding that he planned to meet with his assistants today.  “I’ll just say I’m giving them all the benefit of the doubt, and we’ll see what happens between now and the end of spring practice.”    

A graduate of the University of Tulsa, Nichols said he is looking forward to returning to Oklahoma and said he is prepared for the biggest challenge of his coaching career.

“I’m very excited to be here — this is a great opportunity,” he said. “Coach McCarty did a great job of laying a foundation, and I plan on continuing that.

“I have a fond place in my heart for Oklahoma,” he added.  “I know the state pretty well and I hope to get to know it a lot better.”