The Walton High School graduate was introduced Wednesday as the program’s 21st coach, taking over from Hal Mumme, who resigned last week after four seasons.
“The main focus is I will guide this program on simple principles that advance our university at our highest level both on and off the field,” Miller said during a news conference at the university in central Texas, about three hours west of Dallas. “It is my expectation to honor this university by producing young men of character.
“I feel like we have a good football team right now. Our goal is to become a great football team and continue the path that we’re on.”
McMurry went 27-16 under Mumme, going from a 17-game losing streak that extended into 2009 to qualifying for the NCAA Division III playoffs in 2011. Last fall, in their first season as an NCAA Division II independent, the War Hawks went 8-3 and won the CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl.
“I would like to thank coach Mumme for taking me under his wing at an early age as a player and then as a coach,” Miller said. “It has been my great honor to learn from him. I could never ask for a better mentor.”
McMurry athletic director Ron Holmes said Miller was the best fit for the job.
“We looked at all of our options,” Holmes said. “When you considered all of the elements that were most important to a search — a solid coach on the field, a quality individual off the field, a top recruiter and someone who could provide continuity and build on the recent success — all the arrows pointed right back to Mason.”
Miller, who worked with most of the current coaching staff at New Mexico State, said being able to hire from within was a plus for the program.
“I think that just emphasizes the kind of people we have working in the football office,” he said. “We have a great staff. With all the stuff I’ve had to do the last couple of days, I could not have asked for a greater group of men to be around.
“The nice thing is having been so involved in it before. Whenever you go somewhere else to take a job, you walk in and open Pandora’s box and don’t know what’s behind the door. I’m sure there are things I’m going to figure out real soon that I didn’t know, but as far as knowing the kids, the staff and the culture, that’s good for me.”
Miller said he has asked the remaining staff to stay on and expects little, if any, turnover. The biggest coaching needs will be to appoint an offensive coordinator and hire an offensive line coach.
“That’s probably going to be the biggest change for me personally,” Miller said of giving up his position group. “The office stuff not so much, but I don’t get to coach the offensive line any more. I looked at them (Wednesday) morning while they were running and I was like, ‘This stinks.’”
The announcement capped a tumultuous personal stretch for Miller, with the birth of his second daughter on Jan. 14, followed by the deaths of his grandmother and mother in the last two weeks. The announcement also came just a week before national signing day.
“The biggest thing is we wanted to continue the progress that we’ve had in our program,” Miller said. “Signing day’s not a real big concern for me right now because we have such a small class to sign anyway. Our staff is going to find the people who best suit our needs in our program and can fit into our university.”
Miller, a 1994 graduate of Walton, played running back for two seasons for Mumme at Valdosta State before a knee injury ended his career, then joined the coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1996. After stops as a high school coach in Valdosta and then Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Miller rejoined Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana.
Miller served as offensive line coach for Mumme at New Mexico State from 2005-08. At McMurry, Miller coached the offensive line in addition to being the recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach. He was named offensive coordinator following the 2010 season.
With his background in Mumme’s Air Raid offense, Miller said he foresees no changes in the War Hawks’ schemes.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we’re not going to change,” he said. “The way we prepare, the way we compete, nothing’s really going to change.
“I don’t know anything else. I’m kind of a product of the system and the culture. I’m of the mindset that you don’t fix something’s that not broke.”