Local Sports, Sports, University

University hires longtime assistant Eric Snyder as new head football coach

MORGANTOWN — For the first time in nearly four decades, the University High School football team has a new head coach.

Longtime assistant coach Eric Snyder was approved by the Monongalia County Board of Education on Tuesday to become the Hawks’ new head coach. He succeeds John Kelley, who led the Hawks for 37 years.

At this point in his life, Snyder has been coaching football at University for more years than he hasn’t. That’s what happens when you start a job on your 19th birthday and stay there for over two decades.

“I started in 2002; I was just a little intern coaching assistant through WVU,” Snyder told the Dominion Post. “I started my career there as an intern assistant wide receivers and defensive backs coach and I just hung around.

“The first day on the job I remember I turned 19 years old on that exact day. I made the trip over to get to the coaches’ meeting, which would have been on the first Sunday of the season.”

Starting in 2002, Snyder was with Kelley and UHS for 20 of the next 22 years. He stepped away from coaching during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

“I have been coaching longer than I haven’t,” he said with a laugh.

Snyder, who has taught math at UHS since 2008, was an early favorite to replace Kelley, especially when Kelly himself endorsed Snyder during his retirement speech.

“It’s been something that we’ve talked about for a few years,” Snyder said. “That day was for him and for him to take a moment and give me a plug meant a whole bunch to me. He’s been very close to me, a very close mentor and father-like figure.”

Now, after following Kelley for 20 years, Snyder will take over for the man who had become synonymous with University football. Snyder said the biggest challenge will be trying to improve upon a program Kelley spent 37 years fine-tuning.

“I’d say there is some pressure just with the idea of trying to make the program better,” Snyder said. “That’s the hard thing to do because that guy has seen a lot and he’s learned from mistakes and learned a lot of things to keep doing to be successful.”

The biggest difference for Snyder will be that he now has the final say on everything.

“Now the buck stops with me,” he said. “I can always give Coach Kelley a call and see what he thinks, but he may well just say, ‘Hey, you’re the man.’ The easy thing to do is to just keep doing what we’ve been doing, but I think we have to take some risks to try and make it go up to the next notch.”

Snyder has spent the last few seasons coaching Luke Hudson, his son and the Hawks’ starting quarterback. 

“I was very blessed to be able to live with my quarterback and we could easily bounce back and forth different ideas instead of having to wait for the next day at practice,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t so much deep conversations as much as if he had a quick question he would ask me.”

Hudson, who set multiple passing records at University, is signed to play at Waynesburg University next season. His final game was a 34-27 upset victory over Oak Hill in November.

“That was tough,” Snyder said. “I was worried about trying to be strong the whole game — I was and I was so proud of myself for being able to do that. When he took that last knee, that stuck a chord. That’s something I will never forget. It was a good emotional experience that he and I were able to share.”

TWEET @DomPostSports