Greg Ruffin is a builder, the trait Paine College sought when hiring a football coach.
With the Lions restarting its program after a 51-year absence, the school hired a 39-year-old coach known for resurrecting the Shaw University program in 2002.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” Ruffin said. “It’s great to be the only show in town. That’s what excites me.”
Paine will start playing NCAA Division II football in 2014 as a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This fall, the team will practice and play a handful of games against club teams.
Ruffin said he wants to have 100 players by fall.
Ruffin’s hiring came six weeks after National Signing Day, when high school football players officially committed to colleges, but he said he can bring in players who don’t pass the NCAA Clearinghouse this season.
“At Shaw, that’s how I built that program that first year,” Ruffin said. “I got some kids that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get. I had six defensive ends, five were 6-foot-5.”
Ruffin played fullback at Lane College. He helped breathe new life into the programs at Lincoln University in 1999 then Shaw, where he went 7-3 in his first season.
After working on the Division II level at Ouachita Baptist and Tuskegee, Ruffin served six seasons as an assistant at Division I Jackson State. In 2012, he was the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Texas Southern.
Ruffin and his wife, Mia, have one daughter and two sons.
Paine announced in late October plans to revive the football program. Athletic director Tim Duncan planned to hire a coach within 90 days, but he said he and the steering committee needed extra time to bring in the right person.
“This was the critical hire not only because it provides a measure of comfort, but because people believe we’re actually moving forward with this,” Duncan said. “And it allows a direct contact for the many, many phone calls I’ve received.”
Duncan said the school is putting together a coaches caravan that will travel in April to Atlanta; Greenville, S.C.; and other local stops. An open tryout will be held April 27.