University of Massachusetts Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford announced the hiring of Walt Bell as the football program’s head coach on Dec. 3, 2018.
“I am immensely excited for the opportunity to serve as the University of Massachusetts football head coach, and for my wife, Maria, and I to join the UMass family,” Bell said. “I cannot thank Ryan Bamford, Chancellor Subbaswamy and the entire university administration enough for the opportunity to guide this program. I look forward to getting right to work with the young men on our team.”
Considered one of the most dynamic young recruiters and offensive minds in college football, Bell brings 12 years of FBS coaching experience to the Minuteman program, including five seasons as the offensive coordinator at three institutions: Arkansas State (2014-15), Maryland (2016-17) and Florida State (2018).
“We are excited to welcome Walt Bell and his wife Maria to the UMass family,” Bamford said. “Walt is a fantastic coach who has tremendous credentials as an offensive coordinator, recruiter and developer of talent. It is Walt’s genuine interest in supporting the personal growth of his student-athletes, evidenced by his lasting relationships as a mentor and leader the last 10 years – that really resonated with us. He is a teacher, a motivator and an ambassador and we are fortunate to have him lead our Minutemen in to the future.”
Bell brings a wealth of expertise gathered across seven FBS programs to Amherst with him. In addition to his tenures at Arkansas State, Florida State and Maryland, Bell also worked with the North Carolina (2012-13), Southern Miss (2010-11), Oklahoma State (2009) and Memphis (2007-08) programs prior to his arrival at UMass.
Most recently, Bell oversaw the Florida State passing offense that ranked second in the ACC for passing yards per game (270.1) and 28th overall in the country during the 2018 season.
In addition to his offensive coordinator duties at Florida State, Bell guided the growth of Seminoles’ quarterback Deondre Francois, who continued his ascent up the Seminole record book rankings with a strong 2018 season that included 2,731 passing yards and 15 touchdown passes after Francois missed all but one game in 2017 due to injury.
Bell previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Maryland during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and at Arkansas State during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
While at Maryland, Bell managed the Terrapins offense as it rotated through four quarterbacks due to injuries, and was one of just two teams in the nation with three or more wins by three different starting quarterbacks. Despite the rotation, Bell’s offense ranked in the top-20 nationally for fewest turnovers (14), which tied the Maryland team record.
Bell’s offensive system showcased the capabilities of Big Ten Receiver of the Year DJ Moore who broke the single-season school record with 80 catches, a conference-high average of 6.7 per game. Moore also led the Big Ten with 1,033 receiving yards in 2017, as he became only the program’s third 1,000-yard receiver. Following the season, the Carolina Panthers selected Moore in the first round of the NFL Draft.
In 2016, Bell made his mark on Maryland’s offense immediately as the Terrapins scored a program-record 173 points in the first four games of the season. Maryland’s 2,594 rushing yards created the program’s seventh 2,500-yard rushing season ever and first since 2003, while the 26 rushing touchdowns were the most in College Park since 2007. Quarterback Perry Hills led the Big Ten in completion percentage and ranked second in the conference in passing efficiency.
Bell’s tenure at Maryland followed two spectacular seasons as the offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas State. During his 26 games in charge of the offense, the Red Wolves recorded 11 games with more than 500 yards of total offense, 18 with 400 or more yards and 24 above the 300-yard threshold. The 2015 team ranked 12th in the country with an average of 40.0 points per game and had eight All-Sun Belt selections, including offensive linemen Jemar Clark and Colton Jackson and wide receiver J.D. McKissic on the first team.
With Bell overseeing the offense in 2014, Arkansas State broke single-season school records with 6,194 yards of total offense, an average of 476.5 yards per game, 1,024 plays, 477 points and 65 touchdowns. The team ranked 18th in the country in scoring offense as it averaged 36.7 points per game, was 20th in total offense and earned 25th with an average of 216.4 rushing yards per game.
Bell spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina. During his time in Chapel Hill, he helped the offense break 35 school records. The 2013 team averaged 432.4 yards of total offense, including 277.4 yards per game through the air. In 2012, North Carolina won the ACC’s Coastal Division crown and totaled 14th in the nation with an average of 485.6 yards of total offense per game. As the team’s recruiting coordinator, he helped pull in two classes ranked in the top-five of the ACC.
Tight end Eric Ebron was a standout performer for the Tar Heels under Bell’s guidance, and developed into the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ebron twice earned All-ACC acclaim and was a first-team all-American in 2013 after he piled up 973 receiving yards, the most by a tight end in ACC history. Prior to that, Ebron tripled his freshman year output and finished with 40 receptions for 625 yards as a sophomore in 2012.
Bell was at Southern Miss in 2010 and 2011, and served as the Golden Eagles’ offensive graduate assistant in 2010 before he was promoted to wide receivers coach for the 2011 season.
The 2011 Southern Miss team won the Conference USA title and the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl, and finished with a school-record 12 wins behind an offense that ranked 14th in the country in scoring and 17th in total offense. In 2010, the offense recorded a then-school-record 5,894 yards and broke the school record with an average of 453.38 yards per game.
Prior to his time at Southern Miss, Bell spent the 2009 season as a quality control coach at Oklahoma State. That year, the Cowboys finished 9-4 and played in the Cotton Bowl. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Memphis in 2007 and 2008, when he helped the Tigers to back-to-back bowl appearances.
Bell, a native of Dickson, Tennessee, was a four-year letterman at Middle Tennessee State. He played wide receiver for the Blue Raiders and earned two degrees, as he graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s in criminal justice administration and again in 2006 with a master’s in sport management.