By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
After one season at Missouri Southern, Jay Thomas has returned to Northwestern State as the Demons’ head football coach.
Thomas, 52, was hired Thursday night and introduced at a Friday afternoon press conference in Natchitoches, La.
Thomas spent two seasons at Northwestern State as defensive line coach and assistant head coach before coming to Missouri Southern as part of Daryl Daye’s new staff. Thomas served as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Lions.
“We want to congratulate Coach Thomas and his family,” Daye said in a press release. “It’s a great accomplishment to be a Division I head coach. We’re excited for him and wish him the best of luck, and we’re very proud of him.
“We’re very appreciative to the effort he brought to Missouri Southern, and we wish him the very best. He’s an outstanding coach and I know he’ll do Northwestern a good job.”
Thomas, a 1988 graduate of Southern Mississippi, also served as an assistant under Daye at Nicholls State. He succeeded Daye as Nicholls coach in 2004 and compiled a 27-35 record that included the school’s only Southland Conference championship (2005) and wins over four nationally ranked teams and Rice.
Thomas guided Nicholls to two winning seasons and one .500 season, and they represent three of only four .500 seasons or better for Nicholls during the last 13 years.
“Jay has demonstrated that as a head coach, he can win a Southland Conference championship and did so under extraordinarily difficult circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” Northwestern athletics director Greg Burke said in a press release.
“A Division I head football coach is expected to oversee a very diverse set of responsibilities, but ultimately winning football games is paramount. I liked Jay’s plan, based on 24 years of Division I coaching experience and especially on his familiarity with the inner workings of the football program, to initiate an upward winning trend here.
“We really vetted Jay’s candidacy on a number of levels. He has successfully raised money and did so in a tough economy. He is a Louisiana native who is respected throughout the state and knows where to find good football players here and in the region. During his previous tenure at NSU, he was well liked and well respected in the community.”
Thomas was defensive line coach at Southeast Missouri State from 1993-99 and was a graduate assistant coach under Pete Jenkins at LSU from 1988-90, part of the staff that guided the Tigers to the 1988 Southeastern Conference title.
Thomas replaces Bradley Dale Peveto, whose contract was not renewed after a 4-7 season — the Demons’ fourth straight losing season.