Revenge of the Mumme: An Interview with Hal Mumme
Now that West Virginia is currently No. 5 in the country this week in the AP Top 25 and winning a huge victory over Texas this weekend, it is safe to say that the Mountaineers are for real.
With this in mind, I thought it would be great to interview Hal Mumme, who was Dana Holgorsen's coach when Holgorsen played wide receiver at Iowa Wesleyan. Holgorsen would later go on to be an assistant coach for Mike Leach, who was a coach for Mumme at Kentucky.
Hal Mumme seems to have fallen into a "memory hole" for many college fans. It is often forgotten that the offenses that fans love to see today from coaches like Art Briles, Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen, Sonny Dykes and Kevin Sumlin all stem from the offensive schemes that back in the 1990s were considered the radical deviations from the football norm. Before Mike Leach was considered the "mad scientist" of college football, there was Hal Mumme.
Coach Mumme is now the head coach at McMurry University. The university is a private college in Abilene, Texas. The War Hawks just recently moved up from Division III to Division II football.
Some Air-Raid fans may feel bad for Mumme that his proteges are coaching in Division I while he coaches in Division II. However, don't feel bad for Mumme. He is a very happy man today. Not only is he a cancer survivor (prostate), but he enjoys the atmosphere surrounding McMurry. As he told Spencer Hall:
"I've been a head coach at six different colleges, and I'm really having fun here. I tend to like the job I'm at the best, but it's very fun to be the David in the David and Goliath story, and that's what we get to do. The people here are great, there's a great recruiting field right around us and we don't have to go very far to get players."
Besides, prophets don't always get the credit they deserve in their lifetime. Spencer Hall makes the point far better then I could.
"Mumme's a legitimate pioneer in college football, and sometime pioneers end up in weird, unpredictable places. One of the fathers of the 3-3-5, Joe Lee Dunn, coaches with Mumme at McMurry. Emory Bellard, the creator of the wishbone, ended up coaching Texas high school football after his last college job at Mississippi State. Mouse Davis, the Run 'n Shoot's architect, coached everywhere from the NFL to AFL2 before ending up in semi-retirement at Hawaii. It seems insane, but it's impossible to have the Parcells/Belichick coaching tree without Ray Perkins. That's Ray Perkins, current Jones County Community College head coach."
So with that long introduction, I give you my interview with Coach Hal Mumme.
Can you tell the readers about your coaching job at McMurry University and how much you're enjoying your current position?
"I really enjoy it. McMurry is a great school! We are currently moving from D3 to D2, but have won some big victories, including going to the playoffs last year and beating UTSA in the Alamo Dome."
Back when you were at Kentucky, your offense was considered the workings of a "mad scientist." Now you look around and see how mainstream the Air-Raid has become. Dana Holgorsen at West Virgina. Mike Leach at Texas Tech and now rebuilding Washington State. Former coaches like Sonny Dykes at La. Tech and Chris Hatcher at Murray State. Do you have a sense of vindication that your offensive style of play has become very successful?
"All those coaches you mention that played and coached for me have one thing in common: They’re all very smart. Their success is their success."
For the first time since you left Kentucky, there is another coach in the SEC trying to implement an Air-Raid offense: Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. If you were having coffee at a cafe with Coach Sumlin, what would you say to him about the challenges and ways to have success in the SEC with the Air-Raid?
"Kevin Sumlin is a friend, and we talk quite a bit. I watch A&M, and it’s fun to watch Kevin’s version of the Air-Raid. If we were having coffee, I’d probably make him buy."
I understand your last year at New Mexico State is when you got sick with prostate cancer, which no doubt was a huge distraction for you. Can you talk about cancer for a minute?
"Cancer is tough. My best advice would be for men my age to get their checkups."
In an interview this year, you mention that you really enjoy watching triple-option teams like Navy and Georgia Tech. With your reputation for being a pass-heavy practitioner, that may seem counter-intuitive for some readers. Can you talk about why you enjoy the triple option?
"The triple option is the flip side of the same coin. It’s all about reps and what we do. It’s all about reps and what they do."
You adapted much of the Air-Raid offense from LaVell Edwards. What are some things you learned from the glory years of BYU football in the 1980s?
"Besides the basic scheme, what I learned from Coach Edwards was to resist the temptation to become conservative."
Do you stay in contact with some of your former players like Tim Couch, Martin Hankins and Chase Holbrook?
"The answer is yes, I talk to them quite frequently. Chase Holbrook is the quarterback coach here at McMurry."
In your long history of coaching, when you look back for fond memories, what is your favorite game you coached in and why?
"It’s hard to narrow it down. Among the highlights would have to be several upset games, including Valdosta State vs. UCF in 1994, beating North Alabama in triple overtime in 1996, beating Alabama at UK in ‘97, beating McNeese at Southeast LA in ‘04, beating Nevada in Reno in ‘08 and beating UTSA in the Alamo Dome in ‘11. All great upsets."
What do you hope is the legacy of Hal Mumme to college football?
"That my players had fun."
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