Jason Candle has been named head football coach at The University of Toledo, Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced today.
Candle, who previously served as UT’s associate head coach/offensive coordinator, replaces Matt Campbell, who resigned his post Sunday after four seasons as the Rockets’ leader to become the head coach at Iowa State University. Candle becomes the 27th head football coach in the 95-year history of Toledo football.“We are very pleased that Jason Candle has agreed to become the head football coach at The University of Toledo,” O’Brien said. “Jason has done a terrific job in his seven years with the Rockets, first as our receivers coach, then as our offensive coordinator. During that time, our offenses have been among the best in the Mid-American Conference, and in some cases, the entire country.
“I have also been very impressed with Jason as an individual and as a leader of young men. After careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that he is the best person to lead this program going forward. His hiring brings us consistency as we look forward to a bowl game later this month, and also going forward as we compete for MAC championships in the years to come. Our football program is in capable hands. We are very excited for the future of Rocket football under Jason’s guidance.”
UT President Sharon L. Gaber echoed O’Brien’s enthusiasm for Candle.
“Jason Candle has been a key part of the Rockets’ success during his past seven years, and I’m excited for his continued leadership in the years to come,” Gaber said. “His commitment to our student-athletes’ academic achievement and character development is just as strong as his experience and expertise on the field. Jason is a great choice to take the helm of the Rocket football program.”
O’Brien also expressed gratitude to Jon Heacock, Toledo’s defensive coordinator, who had served as UT’s interim head coach in the days following Campbell’s resignation.
“I would also like to thank Jon Heacock, who stepped up and assumed the interim head coaching role during this process,” O’Brien said. “Jon is an outstanding football coach and a consummate professional.”
Candle will get his first chance to coach the Rockets at their upcoming bowl game, which is expected to be announced Sunday.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be the head football coach at The University of Toledo,” Candle said. “A lot of great coaches have walked through these doors. A lot of players and coaches have built the outstanding tradition of success at Toledo, so I’m very honored and humbled to lead this program.
“I’d like to express my gratitude to President Sharon Gaber and to Athletic Director Mike O’Brien for this wonderful opportunity. I’d also like to thank Matt Campbell, the coaching staff, and, most of all, the young men that I’ve had the privilege to coach on this team and teams in the past. I certainly would not be here if it were not for their commitment and dedication to Rocket football. And finally, I’d like to thank my family for their love and support that helped make a day like this possible.”Candle, 36, has been on the Rocket staff since 2009, when he was hired by former UT head coach Tim Beckman to coach the receivers. Candle was named the team’s offensive coordinator in 2012 shortly after Campbell assumed the head coaching position. Candle became associate head coach in 2014.
Under Candle’s guidance, the Toledo offense has been prolific. This season, the Rockets are 9-2 and rank second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense (35.3) and third in total offense (463.3 yards per game). In 2014, UT led the MAC in just about every major offensive category, including scoring offense (36.6), total offense (490.5) and rushing offense (256.4). The season culminated with a nine-touchdown outburst in a 63-44 victory over Arkansas in the GoDaddy Bowl for the 9-4 Rockets.
Six Rockets earned All-MAC recognition in 2014, with senior center Greg Mancz snagging second-team All-America honors and the Vern Smith Leadership Award, which is given annually to the top player in the MAC. Sophomore running back Kareem Hunt ranked 10th in the nation in rushing (1,631 yards) and second in yards per carry (7.96). Candle also skillfully guided the Rocket quarterbacks through a challenging season in which the top three signal-callers were all injured at the same time.
In 2013, the Rockets averaged 33.0 points and 447.3 yards of total offense per game. Toledo’s running game was especially effective, ranking second in the Mid-American Conference with 240.6 yards per contest. In addition, seven players on the offensive side of the ball earned All-MAC honors, including two-time first-team running back David Fluellen.
In his debut as offensive coordinator in 2012, Candle helped guide the third-ranked offense in the MAC, as UT averaged 445.2 yards per game. The Rockets had five offensive players make the All-MAC team, propelling them to a 9-4 mark and a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
As the receivers coach from 2009 to 2011, Candle mentored one of the most decorated receivers in Rocket history, Eric Page. Page caught 306 passes in his career, the most ever by a Division I-Bowl Championship Series receiver in three seasons. A three-time All-MAC player, Page broke virtually every UT receiving record and tied the MAC record for career receptions.
In 2011, the Rockets went 9-4 and won their first bowl game in six years, a 42-41 victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl. Sophomore wide receiver Bernard Reedy caught three touchdown passes and was named the game’s MVP. Page caught a school-record 125 passes for the season and once again earned first-team All-MAC honors.
In 2010, the Rockets went 8-5 and made their first bowl appearance in five seasons. Page caught 99 passes and was a first-team All-MAC honoree at wide receiver, earning All-America honors at kickoff return, as well. In 2009, Candle coached the slot receivers and tight ends. He helped guide Page to an outstanding freshman season. Page led the nation in receptions (82) and yardage (1,159) by a freshman and was named first-team Freshman All-America by Phil Steele Magazine and the College Football News.
Candle has earned some national accolades of his own. In 2010, he was named one of the top recruiters in the nation by Rivals.com. He was one of only nine coaches in the country from non-automatic Bowl Championship Series qualifying conferences to be named to the list and the only coach from the MAC. Candle also was named the Mid-American Conference “Recruiter of the Year” by Scout.com in both 2011 and 2012. Toledo’s 2011 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the MAC by both Scout.com and Rivals.com.
Candle joined the Rockets’ staff in 2009 after spending both his playing and coaching career under head coach Larry Kehres at Mount Union. In Candle’s six years as an assistant at Mount Union, the Purple Raiders went 83-4 and won NCAA Division III national championships in 2005, 2006 and 2008. The 2003 and 2007 teams lost in the national championship game.
A 2003 Mount Union graduate, Candle was an All-Ohio Athletic Conference first-team selection in 2001 as he led the team in receptions (41), yards receiving (778) and touchdowns (9). He was a key member of the 2000 and 2001 national championship teams and finished his career with 57 grabs for 1,037 yards and 11 scores.
A native of Salem, Ohio, Candle began his coaching career at Mount Union in 2003 as the receivers coach. In the 2004 and 2005 seasons, he worked with Campbell, who was the Purple Raiders’ offensive coordinator at the time. Candle took over the post of offensive coordinator in 2007, and also assumed the duties as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
In Candle’s two seasons as offensive coordinator, the Purple Raiders went 29-1, winning the national championship in 2008 and finishing as runners-up in 2007. Mount Union offensive players earned nine All-American honors in Candle’s two seasons running the offense. Quarterback Greg Micheli was honored in 2008 with the Gagliardi Trophy, which is given annually to the best NCAA Division III player in the nation.
Candle also helped guide two Purple Raider receivers to All-American status during his time as the receivers coach from 2003 to 2008. One of those All-American receivers, Pierre Garcon, is a starting wide receiver for the Washington Redskins. The other was Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
Candle and his wife, Nicole, were married in 2014