Russ Huesman is going home.
Huesman, head football coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga the past eight seasons, was named Richmond's new leader Wednesday afternoon.
He took over at UTC before the 2009 season after spending five years as the Spiders' defensive coordinator, which culminated in a national championship in 2008. Huesman is a 1984 graduate of UTC.
"The five years I spent here, the people, the student-athletes you have the opportunity to recruit are second to none," Huesman told RichmondSpiders.com Wednesday. "I've had the chance to speak to some of the football players already, and all the ones I've ever been around since I've been here are fantastic.
"To take over a team that's an elite-level team, a top-10 team that has been to the semifinals, there's a little bit more pressure there. With that, though, you realize you've got some really good players, a good product to work with. If you come to the University of Richmond, you're expected to win, expected to be in the playoffs and to win national championships."
Former Richmond coach Danny Rocco, who left for Colonial Athletic Association rival Delaware, went 10-4 in 2016, with the Spiders winning two games in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals. He was making $437,000 at Richmond, according to multiple reports.
"We're excited to have Coach Huesman rejoin the Spider family," Richmond athletic director Keith Gill said. "Russ Huesman has an excellent understanding of what it takes to be successful here at Richmond, including our expectations of excellence in the classroom and on the gridiron. He was instrumental in our 2008 football national championship, so he understands our culture of success."
Huesman went 59-37 in eight seasons leading the Mocs, a span that included three consecutive Southern Conference championships from 2013 to '15 and FCS playoff appearances this season and the past two. In his final four seasons at UTC, the Mocs were 36-16 and 25-5 in the SoCon.
Sources told the Times Free Press that Huesman could take as many as four current UTC assistants — possibly including both coordinators — with him to Richmond.
The Spiders initially offered Huesman a figure similar to what Rocco was making, but UTC countered Tuesday afternoon by offering Huesman financial increases pushing his salary near $325,000 and raising the pool of money for assistant coaches to make it one of the richest in the country, sources said.
"We have invested heavily in the football program over the last few years and hoped that Coach Huesman would be our head coach for the foreseeable future," David Blackburn, vice chancellor and athletic director for UTC, said in a statement. "However, we respect his decision and wish him and his family well in the future."
Blackburn was on the road Wednesday morning, preparing to talk with prospective candidates. There is no timetable for the decision on a new coach, but one is expected as soon as possible.
"We have a great product to showcase, as well as a tremendous institution and community," Blackburn said. "The performance of our football program will be a significant factor in attracting strong candidates."
The Mocs went 9-4 this season, falling 41-35 to Sam Houston State in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.