Kris McCullough’s title at East Central University no longer includes “interim.” He carried the title since March, taking the Tigers to a 6-2 winning season so far with a six-game winning streak – its first since 1984. A huge feat while also being the youngest head coach in college football. That success and his leadership has catapulted him to the head coach position.
“Coach McCullough has earned the title of head football coach at ECU,” President Wendell Godwin said. “He has been instrumental in building a culture of excellence on and off the field. When you consider what Coach McCullough has achieved in his college coaching career, it is quite impressive.”
Earlier this week, Godwin and Interim Athletic Director Matt Cole offered McCullough the reins to the football program full time, and he accepted.
“I appreciate President Godwin and Matt Cole believing in me and believing in our staff and allowing us the opportunity to continue leading this football program,” McCullough said. “This is home to my wife and I. We absolutely love it here. We love this University. We love this football team. We love this town and we look forward to being here for years to come.”
McCullough has accomplished a lot in his short career with previous colleges and ECU for the last five years.
“I don’t really care about my story. I just care about where we’re going and what the future holds,” he said. “When I took over as interim, it was obvious this was a place I wanted to be at for a long time, and now being head coach – it’s everything. I get to continue to lead this program and continue to make an impact in these student athletes’ lives every single day.”
McCullough does have an impressive story. He first went into his college education as an accounting major at Henderson State University in Arkansas. He was good at numbers, math, statistics (which he still uses in football). “That sounded good when I began college,” he said. “After six months, that did not sound good to me.”
That was when McCullough approached the football coaching staff at Henderson. As a volunteer, his help was welcome, and he gained a lot of experience. After college, he continued to gain experience volunteering as quality control for the offensive line at Old Dominion.
“It was finding a way to be broke for as long as possible,” he said.
That experience paid off when McCullough was hired at ECU.
“I was the last hire on Coach [Al] Johnson’s original staff back in 2018,” he said. “I was the lowest paid guy at the time.”
McCullough began as a quarterback coach for ECU, then took on special teams, later named offensive coordinator in 2020. In 2021, he was named assistant head coach before taking on the responsibilities of head coach in March.
McCullough said the last seven months have felt like a job interview, but he approached it just as he will as the fulltime head coach.
“We’re going to be student athletes first. We’re going to be committed in the classroom and to the community,” he said. “We have 1,000 hours of community service this semester and that’s going to play a role in our future plans. We have to win on the football field, but we need to be champions not just on the field, but off the field.”
“From the classroom to the community, Coach McCullough and his staff have made the Athletic Department proud,” Cole said. “I am thrilled to have Kris as the leader of our football program. In every aspect of the job, he has been an exceptional leader.”
“We are moving forward with a winner,” Godwin said. “The support that Coach McCullough and his staff have from the athletes, parents, ECU, donors, and the local community is remarkable. We are excited about our future with this team and our coaching staff. Kris’ focus is more than just developing athletes, he is preparing young men for life.”
The newly named head coach said the increase in support has helped move the team forward. “We have an administration that has truly bought into not just excelling in the classroom and on campus, but also in athletics,” he said. “With that, you’re going to see the competitive edge on the field start climbing as there’s more commitment to athletics.”
Moving forward, McCullough said he wants to keep the staff he has in place, keeping them for years to come. “The continuity of staff and players in place will help continue to win,” he said.
When asked what his secret to motivating the young student athletes, McCullough said: Continue to win.
“The only motivation these guys need is they see the writing on the wall,” he said. “They know how good we can be and we continue to focus on ourselves every single day.
“We know there is no limit to what we can achieve as a team.”