Brian Haines is trading in one scenic college locale for another.
Haines has been hired to oversee special teams and coach running backs at Appalachian State, new Mountaineers head coach Shawn Clark announced on Thursday.
Haines will trading in more than 10 years on staff for Frank Solich at Ohio University in Athens, for a spot with an ascending program in Boone, N.C.
“That program has been operating at a high level for a while now, and I know (Clark) is going to keep it at a high level,” Haines said Thursday.
At Ohio, Haines has been a full-time assistant since 2010. Haines coached the Bobcats’ tight ends, and for the last decade also doubled as OU’s recruiting coordinator. Since 2012, Haines has also been Ohio’s Special Teams Coordinator.
“We’re excited to welcome Brian and his family to the App Family,” Clark said in a released statement. “He has a reputation as a great recruiter and a strong developer of talent on the field. He will be a great asset to our program.”
Haines, a 2004 graduate of Marietta College, has spent the bulk of his career in Athens. He worked at Ohio as a graduate assistant in 2007-08, and then returned to the program full-time two years later.
In the decade since, Ohio has earned 91 wins, two Mid-American Conference East Division titles, nine bowl game berths, and the first five bowl victories in program history. As a position coach, three of Haines’ players — Jordan Thompson, Keith Heitzman and Troy Mangen — have earned spots on NFL training camp rosters.
As the special teams coordinator, Haines has helped Ohio field one of the most consistent overall units in the MAC — particularly in kickoff and punt returns, and kickoff and punt coverage. Haines has coached the top two scorers in program history — Louie Zervos (437 points, 2016-19) and Matt Weller (409, 2009-12) — and three of the top four kickers (FGs made) in program history in Weller (79), Zervos (73) and Josiah Yazdani (31, 2013-15).
Ohio’s kickoff return defense ranked in the top 15 in the country in each of the past three years, including No. 2 nationally in 2019. OU checked in at No. 8 nationally in 2015, No. 7 in ’13 and No. 9 in ’12.
Haines’ departure coincides with the departure of all four of the major contributors for the Bobcats’ special teams units. Place-kicker Zervos, punter Michael Farkas, long snapper Devin King, and coverman/returner D.L Knock have all graduated.
Haines said the time to leave OU was right. His wife, Mary, and daughters, Blair and Quinn, are looking forward a new adventure in Boone.
“Talking to coach (Frank Solich) about this was not something I was looking forward to. Athens has been a real home for us,” Haines said. “But with our girls (ages 9 and 11) it seemed like a good time to make this kind of change. It’s what we believe is in the best interest of our family.
“It’s time to spread our wings and fly a little bit.”
Haines will be leaving one of the most consistent Group of Five programs in the country, but will be joining one of the best. App State has won four straight Sun Belt Conference championships over the last four years with a combined record 42-10 record. The Mountaineers have been competing at the FBS level for six seasons and have posted four 10-win seasons. Over the last five years, App State has the fifth-most wins of any program in the country.
The Mountaineers finished 2019 with a 13-1 record, ranked inside the nation’s top 20, and finished the year with a win over UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.
App State will be on its third head coach in three seasons, but Clark is an App State graduate and has coached with the Mountaineers since 2016.
With Haines departure, Ohio will have at least two staff openings to fill for the 2020 season. Solich will be looking for a full-time assistant, and will have to identify new recruiting and special teams coordinators. In addition, Ohio is still yet to announce a new Director of Football Operations.
At Ohio, Haines will leave a tight end room stocked with returners. The Bobcats will return each of its top three tight ends from last season — seniors Adam and Ryan Luehrman, and sophomore Alec Burton — and a trio of redshirt freshmen in Tyler Foster, Casey Clanton and Luke Ewald.
Haines was able to tell Ohio’s current players about his departure on Thursday before the official announcement. He said it was a tough conversation.
“It wasn’t easy for me, or them,” he said. “But (Solich) is going to hire someone as good, heck probably better than me, to coach up them, and push them, and love them just like I would have.
“Coach Solich will find someone to coach them up right. But I’ll miss them.”