Denison football is enjoying a renaissance period and the artist behind this renaissance is Jack Hatem, who enters his 10th season as head coach in 2019.
In 2018 the Big Red enjoyed a breakthrough campaign that saw them go 8-2 in the regular season and win the program's first North Coast Athletic Conference championship since 1986. The Big Red received the North Coast Athletic Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III championship, marking Denison's first football playoff berth in 33 years. The 2018 season was highlighted by a 34-10 victory over No. 22 Wabash and six-straight wins to close out the season. Senior quarterback Canaan Gebele was named the NCAC's Offensive Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy which is presented annually to the top player in Division III football. The Denison offense set new program marks for points (437), points per game (39.7), touchdowns (60), first downs (262), total offense (5,000), all-purpose yards (5,974) and total plays (805). The defense posted a 49-0 shutout win over Allegheny and held Wabash scoreless until the final four minutes of the contest.
Denison has enjoyed six consecutive winning seasons and four-straight seasons with at least seven victories. Hatem ranks third all-time in wins at Denison and boasts a career record of 56-35 (.615). Only Walter Livingston (76) and Keith Piper (200) have more wins at Denison than Hatem. No other coach at Denison has reached the 50-win milestone faster.
Since 2016, Denison has averaged 36 points per game while posting a record of 23-8.
The promotion of Hatem to head coach prior to the 2010 season ushered in a new era of success for Denison football. After another 7-3 campaign in 2017, the Big Red is enjoying one of its most successful stretches in program history. Denison is in the midst of five-straight winning seasons and the Big Red has posted seven or more victories in each of the last four seasons. Since Hatem took over in 2010 he has totaled a career record of 48-32 (.600).
In 2016, the Big Red raised plenty of eyebrows, going 8-2, highlighted by the program's first win over Wittenberg since 1989. This came on the heels of a 7-3 campaign in 2015 marking four-straight winning seasons for the first time since 1983-86. Hatem was named the NCAC Coach of the Year for the first time in his career after the 2016 season.
Hatem became Denison's 20th head coach in the 120+ year history of Big Red football in March of 2010. He had spent the previous five seasons at Denison as an assistant coach, serving as defensive coordinator for the final three seasons of that stint. In 2012 Hatem and his staff were asked to coach the South team at the third annual Ohio Army National Guard Senior Bowl in Columbus, Ohio. The South squad defeated the North, 21-7.
Prior to coming to Denison, Hatem spent 13 years as a high school football head coach. He also served three seasons as the head baseball coach at his alma mater, The University of Rio Grande. Hatem graduated from Rio Grande in 1982, earning his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. He also holds a master’s degree in physical education from Ohio University (1992).
A two-time Ohio High School Football Coach of the Year, Hatem brought 25 years of coaching experience and 13 years as a head coach at the high school level to the Denison program. He joined the Denison staff in 2005 and spent two years coaching defensive backs. In 2007 he was promoted to defensive coordinator and from 2007 through 2009 his defense forced 64 turnovers, which was the third most in the NCAC during that span. In 2008 the Big Red posted a 6-4 record, winning five of their final six games of the season. Over the course of that streak, the Denison defense held its opponents to an average of just 12.8 points per game, and for the year, DU’s opponents gained just 333.0 yards of total offense per game, which was the lowest average allowed by a Denison defense since 1995.
A native of Lancaster, Ohio, and a graduate of Fisher Catholic High School, Hatem was named head football coach at Fisher in 1992. Over the course of three seasons, he led the Fighting Irish to a 22-9 record, including the program’s third undefeated season in school history in 1993. That year, Hatem earned his first Ohio High School Coach of the Year recognition and guided his Fisher squad to its first-ever state playoff appearance.
From 1995 to 1997, Hatem served as head football coach at Highland High School in Sparta, Ohio, and in 1998, he took over a struggling New Albany High School football program, quickly turning it into one of the top programs in central Ohio. Hatem was named Ohio High School Football Coach of the Year again in 1999 after guiding New Albany to a 9-1 record, the program’s best season dating to 1966.
In addition to his accomplishments on the football field, Hatem also has had considerable success on the baseball diamond. A former baseball standout at Fisher Catholic, Hatem served as head baseball coach at Rio Grande for three seasons, shortly after his graduation from the college. While he was an assistant football coach at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Hatem also served as head baseball coach there. In 1991, he led Watterson to its second state baseball championship.
Hatem currently resides in the nearby Buckeye Lake region. He has two grown sons, A.J. and Ryan.