Western Carolina hires former Gators walk-on, JU coach Kerwin Bell as football coach

Jim Rice
Gator Sports

CULLOWHEE, N.C. — Kerwin Bell, who won two NCAA Division II championships as a coach after beginning his college experience as a walk-on, has been hired to lead the Western Carolina football program. 

Bell, 55, replaces Mark Speir, who served as Catamounts coach for nine seasons before being informed April 9 that the school would not retain him.

Bell was a walk-on quarterback at Florida after being a star at Lafayette High in Mayo, earning the starting job as a freshman after the starter was injured, and spent four seasons as the Gators' starter. He was selected the Southeastern Conference player of the year in 1984 and was a two-time honorable mention All-American, finishing with 7,585 yards and 56 touchdowns passing. He went on to play professionally for 14 seasons, briefly in the NFL and then in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League.

Kerwin Bell will take the helm of the Western Carolina football program.

Upon retirement from pro football, e coached high school football in his native Florida before becoming head coach at Division II Jacksonville, which he led to the program's first three conference championships during his nine seasons. He was hired at Valdosta (Ga.) State, which he led to the NCAA Division II championship in 2018.

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He served as offensive coordinator at the University of South Florida in 2019 and this past season as an offensive analyst at Florida. 

The school said it will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. Wednesday to introduce Bell. His contract was approved by the WCU Board of Trustees during a special session Tuesday evening.