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November 20, 2002

ULM names Mike Collins head football coach

Mike Collins, who took over as Louisiana-Monroe's interim head football coach three games into this season, was named head coach Wednesday at a press conference in the ULM Activity Center.

Collins had been the Indians assistant head coach and defensive coordinator until being named interim head coach on Sept. 18.

"I have said numerous times in recent weeks that I have been impressed by the direction and leadership in our football program since Mike Collins became interim head coach," ULM Director of Athletics Bruce Hanks said. "I think if you look at the product we have put on the football field in recent weeks, the excitement that these players have for playing football at our University, and the performance of those players off the football field, then it becomes apparent that we made the right decision in naming Mike Collins interim head coach in September and we are making the right decision today by announcing him as our new head football coach."

Hanks said that Collins has already made the right impact on the ULM football program.

"Mike has quickly taken a strong leadership role with our football program -- both on and off the field," Hanks said. "I have been impressed with his involvement and that of his players in the community and with the University. I believe he is doing the right things to make our program successful. We are naming Mike our head coach for one reason. We believe he is the best man for the job."

Hanks praised Collins and the football team for their involvement in such efforts as:
-- The "Adopt a Spot" Campus Cleanup effort
-- World Children's Day presented by the Ronald McDonald House
-- Organized support and attendance at ULM athletic events other than football
-- Taking a proactive role in the academic success of football players
-- Writing letters to students to thank them for their support at home football games
-- E-mailing faculty to check class attendance and player's academic progress
-- Proactive recruiting of student athletes
-- Work ethic and enthusiasm on the field

The future appears bright for a ULM team that will graduate only 12 seniors from this year's squad and routinely starts nine sophomores and three true freshmen. One of those true freshmen is quarterback Steven Jyles, who became the Indians' starting quarterback in Collins' first game, and has responded with a record-setting year. Jyles will go into
Saturday's game listed in the top 10 of ULM single-season totals in completions, passing yards, total offense and touchdown passes.

"I appreciate the fact that Dr. Cofer, Mr. Hanks and the Administration have the confidence in me to run this program," Collins said. "This is an opportunity that I have worked for and prepared for and I feel very fortunate to be one of only 117 Division I-A head coaches."

Collins joined the staff at ULM as an assistant in 1998 and is a former Indian player. He earned his Bachelor's degree from ULM in 1984 and a Master's in 1985. Collins played for the Indians from 1979-82 and has been ULM's defensive coordinator since 1999. He was elevated to assistant head coach this past June.

Collins had coached linebackers on Ed Zaunbrecher's staff in 1998 and is the only holdover from that staff still with the Indians. He also served as a graduate assistant at ULM and as an assistant coach at Ouachita High School in Monroe. He is the son of Pat Collins, who was ULM's head coach from 1981-88 and guided the Indians to the 1987 I-AA National Championship.

When he was named interim head coach, Collins told the media that he thought his experience to date had prepared him for the job ahead.

"I've been around some great football coaches in my life and you always take a piece from each one of them," Collins said then. "And hopefully, I've learned something over the 41 years I've been living."

Last season, ULM ranked in the top three in the Sun Belt Conference in rushing defense, scoring defense and turnover margin, despite the fact that the Indians routinely started four sophomores and five freshmen.

In 1999, Collins' first year as defensive coordinator, the Indians ranked 31st nationally in total defense, surrendering just 334.3 yards per game. A year later, ULM again ranked in the top 50 nationally in total defense giving up 353.6 yards per game.

As the linebackers coach at McNeese State from 1991-97, Collins coached six All-America linebackers as well as the Southland Conference's Most Valuable Defensive Player in 1992, 1993 and 1994. He has had another outstanding linebacker at ULM -- Maurice Sonnier, the Preseason Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the Rotary Lombardi Award and Butkus Award Watch Lists this season, before he was lost to a broken ankle.

Collins' appointment is pending the approval of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

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