MACON, Ga. – Mercer University Director of Athletics Jim Cole introduced Eric Hayes as the school's new men's and women's tennis head coach in a press conference at the University Center on Thursday afternoon. Hayes' arrival comes on the heels of an 11-year post at Troy University, where he led the Trojans' men's and women's tennis teams to unprecedented success.
"Eric Hayes meets every criterion we identified when searching for the next coach of our men's and women's tennis teams," Cole said. "His reputation within the tennis community precedes him and we're confident we've found the right man to lead our student-athletes."
With over two decades of head coaching experience, Hayes boasts a reputation as a program builder who's seen success at every stop. In addition to Troy, Hayes has held head coaching positions at North Carolina State University, the University of South Florida and the University of Kansas during a 22-year career as a Division I head coach.
"I grew up in the South, so I am very familiar with Mercer," Hayes said. "After visiting the campus and the city of Macon and I see it is very desirable to quality student-athletes. Academically, Mercer has a huge advantage over other universities and I expect more exposure with the move to the Southern Conference."
Hayes' time at Troy yielded an era of prosperity for both the men's and women's programs. He's produced NCAA Tournament teams on both sides, highlighted by the men's Sun Belt Conference Championship season in 2010 and the women's Atlantic Sun Championship campaign in 2004.
Hayes' leadership lifted the Trojan men to the program's highest national ranking in 2010 when the team finished 20-4 overall and No. 55 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. That season, he was named both the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and the ITA Southern Coach of the Year, joining just six other coaches nationally recognized by the association. Since Troy's transition from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Sun Belt Conference, Hayes has guided the men's team to 61 wins while earning bids to the conference tournament in every season.
On the women's side, Hayes has racked up 100-68 record in eight Sun Belt seasons, including a 17-6 record during the 2012-13 academic year. The most recent season also included a stretch of 15-straight wins, the third longest streak nationally. Before the conference transition, Hayes took home A-Sun Coach of the Year honors in 2004 when his championship squad went 14-8 and made the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
At NC State, Hayes' men's squad rose as high as No. 21 in the ITA rankings while he stamped his name on a number of program firsts. The 1999 team booked the school's first winning season in 11 years and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, ending a 21-year drought for the program.
Prior to NC State, Hayes was the Director of Professional Players at the Palmer Tennis Academy in Tampa, Florida. His time at Palmer saw him train and travel with athletes to Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) events around the world. Under this tutelage, Jared Palmer won the Wimbledon Doubles Championship and Brian Dunn achieved the No. 1 junior world ranking from the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
From 1989-1992 Hayes compiled a 33-31 record as head men's tennis coach at South Florida. In 1990, he was tabbed as the both the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and the Region III Coach of the Year after leading the Bulls to the league championship.
Hayes broke into the head coaching ranks at Kansas in 1988, becoming the youngest head coach of any Division I sport at 23 years of age. A two-year stay in Lawrenceville saw Hayes lead the Jayhawk women to a 27-20 record. Before Kansas, he was an assistant men's coach at Clemson University and was part of the 1987 ACC Championship team that reached as high as No. 2 nationally.
"One thing I'm driven by is the challenge of building a program," Hayes commented. "I began my coaching career at a very young age and every program I arrived at was at a low point. If you're the fittest team in the country, the players will be amazed at what they can accomplish. There is no reason Mercer tennis can't compete for conference championships in the near future with the proper recruits. Also, players with high academic goals are usually successful on the tennis court."
Hayes' ties to professional tennis endure as he currently serves as tournament director of the USTA $50,000 women's challenge, held annually in October. This fall, he'll move the week-long tournament to Macon and welcome a field of Top-100 professional players to the event.
Hayes played four years of collegiate tennis at Carson-Newman College before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He was a four-time All-South Atlantic Conference selection and earned NAIA All-American honorable mention honors as a senior.
The Suffern, N.Y. native is married to the former Lisa Hunt, of Huntington, West Virginia. The couple has a son, Seth Hunt, and a daughter, Marley Hayes.