Former NFL player, D-III head coach takes Wilmington job

More news about: Ohio Northern | Wilmington
Stacey Hairston has returned to Division III and the OAC.
Wilmington athletics photo

Wilmington has selected Stacey Hairston to guide the Quakers’ football program as its new head coach.

The former professional football player with the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns spent both his collegiate playing career and a dozen years as an assistant coach at conference rival Ohio Northern.

He replaces interim coach Jay Niswonger, who took over when Ken Minor resigned midseason. Under Niswonger, the Quakers went 1-6, snapping a 32-game losing streak.

Terry Rupert, vice president for athletics administration and director of athletics, announced Hairston’s hiring Wednesday following a national search to succeed Minor, who left after nearly two and a half years as head coach.

“We are thrilled to hire a coach with Stacey’s experience and knowledge of the Ohio Athletic Conference,” Rupert said. “His extensive playing and coaching experience will benefit the football team. He impressed the selection committee with his thorough plan to build our football program.”

Hairston spent the past season as the defensive coordinator at Division II Bluefield (W.Va.) in the school’s first varsity season. The Columbus native also served for two seasons as an assistant coach for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

“I have coached in the OAC and have seen Wilmington from afar,” Hairston said. “It’s a good, quality school in a good location. The location is ideal; near Cincinnati, Springfield, Dayton and Columbus. You have to hit those areas hard to have a chance.”

Not only does Hairston bring extensive coaching experience to the table, he played professional football for seven years. After being signed as a free agent in 1989 by the Dallas Cowboys, Hairston spent a year in Dallas before playing three seasons north of the border as a three-year starting defensive back for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

He returned to the NFL for three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, where he was an integral part of the league’s top-ranked defense in 1994.

Hairston coached ONU’s defensive backs and special teams for seven seasons. After serving as the team’s interim head coach in 2003, he was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and co-special teams coordinator, where he stayed until 2008.

Rupert was impressed with the strength of candidates applying for the position and expressed his appreciation to the search committee that reviewed more than 100 applications and interviewed the top candidates. He also cited the work of Niswonger, who took over in September as interim head coach.

“We would like to thank Jay for his tireless work in guiding our team for the final seven weeks of the season and the opening weeks of recruiting,” Rupert said.

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