Walt Wells was introduced to the Eastern Kentucky University community on Tuesday at the EKU Center for the Arts after being announced as the 15th head football coach on Monday.
Wells is taking over a football program that finished with back-to-back winning seasons under former head coach Mark Elder who was not retained two weeks ago after four seasons.
Wells is a familiar face around Richmond after he served as an assistant under Hall of Fame head coach Roy Kidd from 1997 to 2002 and was an assistant again with the Colonels in 2015.
“I drove in this morning and I’ll never forget when I got the call from Coach Kidd in 1997 to come be apart of this program,” Wells said. “I’m so excited to be back and I thank you Coach Kidd and Mrs. Kidd for teaching us the way.”
During his first stint at EKU, the Colonels won the 1997 Ohio Valley Conference title with a 7-0 record and advanced to the NCAA FCS playoffs.
Wells served as Kidd’s tight ends coach from 1997 to 1999, and as the offensive line coach from 2000 to 2002. EKU ranked among the top-15 nationally in rushing in 2001 and 2002.
“I want to thank President [Michael] Benson, Board of Regents chair Lewis Diaz, Mark Sandy, David McFadden, Marc Collins and Bundy McGinnis,” Wells said.
During that stint, Wells coached Lewis Diaz, the current chairman of the EKU Board of Regents.
Diaz was a Second-Team All OVC selection in 1999 and 2000.
Wells spent the last two seasons at the University of Kentucky as a quality control assistant before accepting his first head coaching position at EKU on Monday.
“I would like to thank coach [Mark] Stoops and his staff… I’ve learned so much from Mark Stoops… Basically what I did was shadow him about how to be a head coach,” Wells said.
While at Kentucky in 2018, Wells witnessed the Wildcats beat Florida for the first time in 32 years, posted the program’s best Southeastern Conference record in 41 years and beat No. 12-ranked Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. All totaled, the 10-3 record was Kentucky's best season in 41 years and only the third 10-win season in school history. In 2019, the Wildcats won seven games and achieved bowl eligibility again.
Wells has 25 years of college coaching experience. Wells has also spent time at Cumberland University, Western Kentucky, South Florida, New Mexico State and the University of Tennessee.
“We look forward to the next era of EKU football,” said interim director of athletics Mark Sandy.
“My vision for EKU football is simple, expect to win,” Wells said. “This place is different and the expectations here is different… I want men who play with passion, with a purpose and with pride. That is what it’s about. You can’t play this game and not have passion, it’s too hard. You can’t play without purpose.”
Wells admitted during his speech on Tuesday that he has not toured the new facilities yet, but did have the chance to speak with the players on Monday.
“I think the biggest challenge is going to be gaining the trust of the current players,” Wells said. “It’s not like they had a bad season last year. Things just didn’t work out for them and they seem like a great group of guys. I did an evaluation of every player on the team before my interview and there’s some good players here.”
Wells is expecting his team to compete on and off the field, from practices to excelling in the classroom.
“This is the right man, at the right time and the right place,” said EKU President Benson.
Wells emphasized that it is going to be a player driven program from recruiting, to how they run the offense, defense and special teams.
Wells said he is ready for the future and ready for the challenges ahead as the next head coach at EKU.
“We have to make our own history,” Wells said.