Chris Merritt was named the fourth head coach in Bryant Football history on Dec. 20, 2018.
Merritt comes to Smithfield after spending 18 years as the head coach at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Florida. He posted an overall record 172-45 (.792), leading the Explorers to two state finals appearances (2014, 2018), five Regional Championships, 14 District Championships and an 80-4 record in district competition in the largest high school classification in the state of Florida. In addition, Merritt's program has produced over 100 collegiate football players in 18 seasons, including current Bryant offensive linemen Kyle Mann and Robert Perez and 2016 alum Brandon Dagnesses.
"We are very excited to welcome Chris Merritt to Bryant as our next head football coach," Smith said. "Chris is a proven winner that has developed Christopher Columbus into one of the top football programs in the state of Florida. He has won 14 district championships in 18 years, while also developing over 100 student-athletes that have gone on to play college football. His intensity and commitment to student-athlete development are the perfect fit for our Bulldog program."
"As we celebrate our 20th season of Bryant football, we are thrilled to have such a successful coach start the next phase of our football program," Machtley said. "Chris has a vast track record of ensuring that he recruits scholar-athletes who can both compete in the classroom and on the field at the highest level. His values and experience are a great fit to ensure that we maintain our momentum of a growing national reputation."
Throughout his career at Columbus, Merritt received several recognitions for his accomplishments on the field. He was inducted into the Columbus High School Hall of Fame in 2018, named the Nike Coach of the Year in 2005, the Miami Herald Coach of the Year in 2014 and the Warren Henry South Coach of the Year in 2017.
During his time at Columbus, Merritt also worked heavily with USA Football, serving as the head coach of the Junior National Team in 2010 and as the defensive and offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He also served as the defensive backs coach on the gold-medal winning U.S. U-19 National Team at the IFAF World Championships in 2009.
"First, I want to say how honored and humbled I am to be named the head football coach at Bryant University," Merritt said. "I want to say thank you to President Machtley and Athletic Director Bill Smith for the opportunity to lead the football program at a first-class academic and athletic institution. I'd also like to thank Columbus High School, specifically Br. Kevin Handibode and Dave Pugh for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the Marist Columbus Community for the past 18 seasons.
"I'm extremely excited to hit the road recruiting and to begin work with these young men to develop a culture of success. It is my number one goal at Bryant University for every young man in our program to Expect to Win!"
Merritt also served as the head coach of the Hamburg Blue Devils in the German Football League. He guided the Blue Devils to a 48-9-1 record (.936), a pair of European Championships, a national championship and three-straight Charity Bowl Championships. Merritt is the franchises all-time leaders in wins and winning percentage.
Bryant will be Merritt's third collegiate coaching stop. He served as the special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Thiel College prior to his time at Columbus and spent two years as an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois University in 1993-94.
Merritt was a four-year letterwinner as a free safety and special teams captain at Indiana University from 1988-92. He began his career as a walk-on before earning a full scholarship and competing in three bowl games.
Merritt has three children, Megan, Ryan, and Shannon.