Austin Peay football coach Mark Hudspeth suddenly resigned Friday after a record one-year season with the Govenors.
“This was not an easy decision, but a very personal one,” Hudspeth said in a school release. “I need to take some time away from the game with Tyla and the kids. I could not be more thankful for my time at Austin Peay and will be a fan forever. I will miss the players and coaches incredibly and will never forget their commitment to each other and this team. I will return to coaching in the future at the right time.”
Hudspeth led the Governors to a program-record 11 wins, their second Ohio Valley Conference championship and their first postseason appearance. The Govs advanced to the FCS quarterfinals with victories against Furman and Sacramento State.
“First, I want to thank Mark for his work in moving Governors football to new heights,” athletics director Gerald Harrison said. “His dedication to Governors football has laid the foundation for our football program to reach even greater success. We’ll get to work immediately determining our next steps to build on the momentum Mark built.”
Neither Hudspeth nor Harrison could be reached for comment.
Hudspeth was named the OVC’s Coach of the Year, and a record seven Governors were named first-team All-OVC among 11 earning postseason recognition from the league. In addition, four APSU players earned All-America recognition, including consensus All-American nickel back Kordell Jackson.
Harrison will retain the remainder of the coaching staff, which will lead the program while Harrison and his staff determine the next steps. Austin Peay is scheduled to begin organized team practices on July 31.
Friday's announcement comes on the heels of Monday's announcement that the university shut down all workouts after 11 athletes tested positive for COVID-19.
Football has been the only sport on campus from the time Austin Peay reopened for athletic activity June 13. Non-scholarship players were supposed to return to campus this week, and Harrison said in early June all fall sports athletes, plus basketball, would be back by no later than July 10. However, Monday's decision to suspend all activities have put those plans on hold.
The university now finds itself in a difficult position. Austin Peay's season is less than two months away with workouts on pause and will now have to find a new coach.
The Govs are scheduled to play Central Arkansas in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff Aug. 29 in Montgomery, Alabama, and follow that with a trip to Cincinnati Sept. 3.
Hudspeth signed a contract extension through 2024 last December that could have seen his pay increase by $45,000 if he had stayed through the length of the contract. His original contract, signed in December 2018, was for five years at $250,000 per year. That would have been bumped to $272,500 for the 2020 season.
Now Harrison, who signed his own contract extension last month, will have to quickly search for a new coach while trying to maintain an FCS program that has been ranked as high No. 13 in several preseason publications.
Hudspeth talked at length about the uncertainty of the upcoming season in April, nearly a month after spring football was canceled, and was optimistic he could keep Austin Peay as a viable OVC championship-contending program.