UK Football

How Hal Mumme's problem became Mark Stoops' solution as Kentucky's new offensive coordinator

Shannon Dawson
helped pilot an offense that averages 85 plays a game.
Shannon Dawson helped pilot an offense that averages 85 plays a game.

The name "Shannon Dawson" was scribbled on two separate scraps of paper scattered on the desk of one Hal Mumme.

The former Kentucky coach, and one of the godfathers of the Air Raid offense, had just been hired to restart the program at Southeastern Louisiana.

Dawson, barely removed from college at Wingate in North Carolina, wanted to work for Mumme, but his name almost got lost in the leaning paper mound.

Some 11 years later, that same Shannon Dawson will be formally introduced as offensive coordinator at Kentucky.

There have been many successful stops along the way for Dawson, but one of his first was working for Mumme, who tried to run him off the first month they were together.

Mumme knew Dawson as a booster's son at Southeastern Louisiana.

"We had one ball and one helmet, one little tiny office and a young lady named Amber to help us," the former Kentucky coach recalled of his first job after leaving UK in 2001.

Boosters were important as the program was being built, and one booster in particular wanted Mumme to hire his son, who had played quarterback and wide receiver at Wingate, where he also coached briefly.

"The last thing in the world you want to hear from a booster is, 'Hire my son,'" Mumme said.

A few days later, Mumme got a call from Dana Holgorsen (then at Texas Tech) recommending one Shannon Dawson, who was willing to work for almost nothing and had a bright football mind.

"I was very interested, took all of the information down, stuck it on my desk," Mumme recalled.

Time passed, and the booster's son, who also happened to be a good friend of Holgorsen (from Holgorsen's own brief stint at Wingate) was in Mumme's doorway.

At that point, Mumme knew him only as the booster's son — not as the aspiring coach Holgorsen had recommended.

"I told him all the bad stuff he'd have to do: 'I won't pay you for six months, you've got to work for free,'" Mumme recalled. "'You have to drive me around, be my chauffeur and get my laundry, do video.'

"I basically tried to talk him out of taking the job, and when I was done, he said, 'I'll take it.'"

It wasn't until weeks later, when Holgorsen called to ask how the new hire was working out, that Mumme started rummaging through his paper pile to find that Dawson's name was on two slips.

"I started treating him real nice after that," Mumme said, laughing.

The head coach took a liking to Dawson quickly, too, starting with their first game together.

During the fourth quarter, the Lions trailed Arkansas-Monticello by a handful of points. The early 20-something coaching newbie went to Mumme with a suggestion.

"Shannon walks up to me — and by this time, I'm kind of treating him nice 'cause he's coaching my running backs — and he says, 'Coach, I think if we run this play right here, we could score,'" Mumme remembered.

The head coach used the idea, and it won the game.

"I've been a huge Shannon Dawson fan ever since then," the former Kentucky coach said, noting that he has followed Dawson's career through successful stops at Millsaps, Stephen F. Austin and most recently as offensive coordinator under Holgorsen at West Virginia.

"I was a little shocked that he took the (UK) job at first because he and Dana are really close, but then I got to thinking it's the same type of opportunity Mike Leach had when he left me at Kentucky and went to Oklahoma with Bob Stoops," Mumme said.

That connection didn't seem lost on UK Coach Mark Stoops, younger brother of the aforementioned Stoops.

With the departure of Neal Brown, he was looking for another coach to run the Air Raid, which Stoops said he "wholeheartedly" believes in.

"Just look at my brother at Oklahoma," Stoops said Thursday during an interview on Kentucky Sports Radio. "He hired Mike Leach from Kentucky and won a national championship in the second year with that system and has had a variation of it for 17 years."

Mumme has no doubt that Dawson will be a good fit at Kentucky.

"He's going to make a connection with the kids and he's really smart," Mumme said. "He's a great recruiter. He loves the game and has a great passion for it. I can't say enough good things about him."

Neither could Dawson's current boss, who confirmed before a news conference Thursday that his offensive coordinator friend indeed was headed to UK.

"I want to congratulate Shannon Dawson on becoming the offensive coordinator at Kentucky," Holgorsen said. "Shannon has been a friend of mine for many years, and over these last four years at WVU he has been an outstanding member of our staff.

"I wish him nothing but the best in his coaching career. He has a great future ahead."

The chance for Dawson to work for a defensive-minded head coach like Stoops and have complete control over the offense will be great, Holgorsen said.

"I couldn't be happier for him," he said, noting that Dawson would stay with the Mountaineers through their Dec. 29 Liberty Bowl game against Texas A&M. "I've known Shannon for a long time and trust him as much as any coach that I've ever been with."

Unable to confirm the hire until the process is completed Friday, Stoops said he took his time to find the right fit in replacing Brown, who left to take the head coaching job at Troy recently.

"I'm a defensive guy," Stoops said on the radio. "So my offensive coordinator has to have that leadership that you're looking for, has to have the things you're looking for, the style, toughness."

He also wanted to make sure he hired someone who could offer some consistency to the offense, which he said made significant strides this past season.

"I didn't want to take a step back with bringing someone in and completely changing us, our style," he said.

Stoops added that he wanted "a philosophy that will carry over ... . We all know that Kentucky football, we've been waiting too long to win football games and be a winning program."

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