(STATS) - The 2015 coach of the year in the FCS began last season with an interim label, only to shed it midway through the regular season in what was a spectacular turnaround for his team.
It would be hard for any interim coach to match what Portland State's Bruce Barnum accomplished in earning STATS FCS Coach of the Year - staging a six-win improvement, beating a pair of FBS opponents and leading the Vikings to the national playoffs for only the second time.
But Fred Farrier, the interim head coach at Morgan State, has made a solid impression over the first three months since he was elevated from offensive coordinator to replace Lee Hull, who resigned from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program after two seasons to become the Indianapolis Colts' wide receivers coach.
The 44-year-old Farrier says he's "chasing championships" at Morgan State. As an assistant coach, he helped the Bears earn a share of the 2014 MEAC title and reach the FCS playoffs for the first time, with his offense setting 35 school records.
"He's been evaluated on a daily, weekly basis here to determine, hey, is he the right guy? That could happen at any time," said Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr, whose program is the only one among 124 FCS schools with an interim coach.
"He's stepped up to the plate, he's made the commitment to honor the intent of making him the interim coach, and that was to provide continuity, stability in the program, and keeping the program moving forward. He's done all those things."
Farrier, a graduate of Holy Cross, where he played wide receiver, was the head coach at Division II Kentucky State from 2005-09, going 19-25. He's also been an assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Tennessee Tech and Saginaw Valley State, and he spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under then-coach Nick Saban.
His Morgan State squad, which finished 4-6 last season, is expected to return 15 starters (eight on offense and seven on defense) as well as former 1,000-yard running back Herb Walker Jr., who was ineligible last season.
"(Farrier's) most impressive thing is his ability to articulate his goals and his objectives, and his ability to communicate at all levels," Kerr said. "He had great relationships with our recruits; we did not lose any recruits. He was very close to the former head coach, Lee Hull. He was the first guy that coach Hull hired. Those are things that were very important to me.
"Other things that were factored into that was the fact that he's had some head coaching experience. His background is in economics and accounting. So he's a well-educated person. He's a great role model for the kids."