Mocs hire Georgia State assistant Rusty Wright as new head coach

Image via UTC

Former Chattanooga tight end and assistant coach Rusty Wright is returning to his alma mater as the Mocs' new head coach.

Chattanooga athletic director Mark Wharton announced Wednesday that Wright would replace Tom Arth, who left last week to take over Akron's program after going 11-13 in two seasons.

The move is pending a background check. A formal introduction and reception is scheduled for Friday.

Wright has spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Georgia State, where he coached linebackers and special teams while also working as recruiting coordinator.

He played for Chattanooga from 1992-95. Wright worked on Chattanooga's staff from 1996-200 and again from 2013-16, when he was linebackers coach and special team coordinator.

Wright also has been an assistant at Miami (Ohio), Butler, Gardner-Webb and Furman.

A 22-year veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, Wright is a 1996 graduate of UTC with a degree in Sports Administration. He was a four-year letter winner for the Mocs football team and had two stints as an assistant coach at UTC.

"I am extremely excited to announce Rusty Wright as the next head coach of Chattanooga Football," stated Wharton. "Once again, our program, University and community attracted an outstanding candidate pool.

"Rusty's experience and success at the FCS level made him a logical candidate for our job. It was his vision, passion and commitment to UTC that convinced us that he was the perfect fit for the long-term success of Chattanooga Football. I can't wait to get started working with him to bring championships back to Chattanooga."

Wright spent the last two seasons on Shawn Elliot's staff at Georgia State where he coached the inside linebackers, special teams and served as the Panthers' recruiting coordinator. They guided the Georgia State to the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Championship.

In his first year with the Panthers, the 2017 GSU defense set season records for fewest points per game (24.8), fewest rushing yards per game (136.4), fewest yards per rushing attempt (4.1) and most sacks (24).

Prior to that, Wright was a member of Russ Huesman's staff at UTC during one of the most successful runs in school history. He was the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator for four seasons (2013-16). UTC won three straight Southern Conference titles and made three consecutive FCS Playoff appearances during his time in the Scenic City.

Included in those playoff berths was a trip to the quarterfinals in 2014. There were also four consecutive seasons of eight or more wins.

In 2016, Wright coached All-America linebacker Nakevion Leslie. During his tenure at UTC, five linebackers earned first-team all-conference honors, while punt returner Tommy Hudson, tutored by Wright in 2014, earned All-America recognition. Before returning to UTC, Wright worked two years helping build a new program at NAIA-member Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga., where he was the defensive coordinator.

Wright served four years (2005-08) as an assistant at Miami (Ohio). In 2007, the Miami defense led the Mid-American Conference in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense and quarterback sacks. The Red Hawks won MAC East titles in 2005 and 2007.

In 2004, Wright served as the defensive coordinator at Butler. He also spent one season coaching defensive line at Gardner-Webb (2009), and one year as the linebackers coach at Furman (2010).

Wright was a four-year letterman at Chattanooga from 1992-95. He caught more than 50 passes as a tight end in his career, playing on offensive units that included future NFL players Terrell Owens, Jerry Ellison and Marrio Grier.

He began his coaching career on the Mocs staff, serving seven seasons (1996-02) in various roles, coaching the linebackers, tackles, tight ends, special teams and the junior varsity squad.

The native of Petticoat Junction, S.C., Wright is married to the former Kelley Black, who was a volleyball letter winner at UTC. The couple has one daughter, Madison, a basketball player at Belmont.