JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (jsugamecocksports.com) – One of the most storied careers in Jacksonville State's rich athletics history came to a close on Thursday, when hall of fame coach James Hobbs announced his retirement.
Hobbs' retirement ends a career that has spanned 45 years at JSU and 40 as the Gamecocks' golf coach. That career saw him lead the Gamecock men's and women's golf programs to a combined 23 NCAA Regional Appearances, including 16 after JSU moved to Division I in 1993. He was inducted into the JSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.
"When I came here, I didn't expect to be here a full lifetime," Hobbs said. "This has been a good place for me to live and a good place for me to raise a family. I've worked for, and with, a lot of good people and this has been an easy place for me to do my job. People have always been helpful and supportive of what we were trying to do.
"But everything has to come to an end at some point, and I've reached an age to where it's harder and harder to maintain the pace that a good golf program needs. But I can honestly say that I have absolutely no regrets and I don't leave here thinking that I have anything left to prove."
Hobbs came to JSU in 1977 as an assistant basketball coach that led the Gamecocks to eight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament, including a national championship in 1985, two Final Four appearances and three Elite Eight appearances over a 16-year span.
"I came as a basketball coach in a Division II program and went into golf in the fall of 1983," Hobbs added. "It was a great move for me and a great challenge for me because I didn't have the background in golf like I had in basketball. I took what recruiting skills I had and basically tried to go out and find the best players I could find for the University and I feel that it has paid off pretty well in terms of the success we've had."
After he took over the JSU men's golf program, he would go on to have tremendous success over the next 40 years. His teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times in Division II before moving to Division I in 1995, from where the Gamecocks would go on to win 11 conference titles. Also in 1995, Hobbs started the JSU Women's Golf program from scratch and went on to win six conference titles at the Division I level.
"First and foremost, I want to thank Coach Hobbs for his service to Jacksonville State University, Gamecock Athletics and, more importantly, our student-athletes over the past 45 years," JSU Athletics Director Greg Seitz said. "He took over our men's program in 1983 and developed it into one of the best in the Southeast. In 1995, he started our women's program and built it into a championship-caliber program, as well. Our golf program is what it is today because of Coach Hobbs."
Hobbs was named the Ohio Valley Conference's Coach of the Year eight times – four on the men's side and four more on the women's side – during the Gamecocks' tenure in the league from 2003-2021. He was also named the Coach of the Year in the ASUN Conference in 1997 and in 2002.
Hobbs coached seven All-Americans during JSU's time in Division II, and after the Gamecocks made the move to Division I, he coached 10 Ohio Valley Conference Players of the Year – three on the men's side and seven on the women's. Twelve of his players – five men and seven women – have been named Freshman of the Year in the OVC.
"I take great pride in the fact that golf has moved from Division II to Division I and that we made that move very successfully," Hobbs said. "And I take great pride in the fact that we were able to start the women's program, get it up and running and that we've been able to get it to where our women's program is on equal footing with the men's."
Hobbs also saw his golfers succeed beyond JSU, with former OVC Champions Danny Willett and Matt Wallace evolving into two of the world's top golfers. Willett won his first European Tour Event in 2012 at the BMW International Open and became the first player to play collegiately at an Alabama university to win the Masters in 2016. Wallace (fourth) and Willett (ninth) both placed in the Top 10 of the 2019 Race to Dubai Standings on the European Tour.
The success that Hobbs' programs have enjoyed has been greater than many of those in the Gamecocks' department, something that means a great deal to the coach.
"The one thing that really stood out to me when I came here was the tradition that Jacksonville State athletics was known for, and I'm proud that we've been able to live up to the expectations that came with being here," he said.
Following Hobbs' announcement and the Gamecocks preparing to join Conference USA in the fall of 2023, JSU will begin a national search for two head coaches – one to lead its women's program and another to lead the men's program.
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The ASUN, a Division I conference member of the NCAA, boasts a membership of institutions that share visionary leadership, bold ambition and creative innovation. As a nimble adaptive conference, unafraid to blaze a national pathway for better service to our student-athletes, teams, and institutions, the ASUN has a proud history of firsts, national academic and athletic achievements and a conference culture that walks the walk with its four ASUN Beams. Students First! Rise. Connect. Impact. #ASUNBuilt by Bellarmine (Louisville), Central Arkansas (Conway), Eastern Kentucky (Richmond), FGCU (Fort Myers), Jacksonville (Fla.), Jacksonville State (Jacksonville, Ala.), Kennesaw State (Ga.), Liberty (Lynchburg, Va.), Lipscomb (Nashville), North Alabama (Florence), North Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.), and Stetson (DeLand, Fla.). Austin Peay, based in Clarksville, Tenn., and Queens University, based in Charlotte, N.C., are set to join the league in the 2022-23 academic year.