Staff and wire report

It's customary that the coach of the national champions wins the coach of the year. So, it was no surprise that at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday, Valdosta State's Chris Hatcher received his deserved on honor.

All coaches in each of the AFCA's four divisions voted on the award, which dates back to 1935. For that reason alone, it will hold a special place in Hatcher's heart.

"This is certainly one of the best awards I have ever received because it is voted on by my peers, the people who know me the best," Hatcher said. "I'm getting the attention, but I wouldn't be receiving his honor if not for the extraordinary work of my staff and the exceptional performance of our team."

Hatcher has continued to churn out exceptional teams in five years at his alma mater. The 2004 team broke through, winning 13 straight games after a season-opening loss to Albany State to claim the championship. The Blazers even got their revenge along the way, defeating the Rams in Albany in the South final by erasing a 24-point halftime deficit.

The award not only represents Hatcher's success this year, though. In his five years in Valdosta, the second-generation coach has 59-7 record, including two undefeated regular seasons.

His .894 winning percentage is best among all NCAA coaches with a minimum of five years.

Every Hatcher-led VSU team has gone to the playoffs, and only the 2003 team failed to do so as Gulf South Conference champion.

Hatcher had already been an AFCA Division II regional coach of the year following his unbeaten 2001 and 2002 regular seasons.

The icing on the cake is that Hatcher's victory means he joins Division I-AA winner Mickey Matthews (James Madison) and Division III winner Jay Locey (Linfield) as assistant coaches at the Hula Bowl.

The college football All-Star game, scheduled to take place Jan. 22 in Maui, Hawaii, will have Georgia's Mark Richt coaching one team with Hatcher and Northern Illinois' Joe Novak and new Ohio coach Frank Solich as his assistants. ESPN2 will broadcast the game at 7 p.m.

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