First the coach, then the players.
Jack Cosgrove, entering his third decade as head football coach at the University of Maine, signed a three-year contract Tuesday that should keep him at his alma mater through June 2016.
The announcement came one day before national signing day, when Cosgrove’s newest recruits can sign letters of intent to enroll in Orono and play for the Black Bears.
“Jack has been a great presence with our football program,” said Steve Abbott, Maine’s athletic director. “He has been a tremendous leader and mentor for a lot of young men who have come to Orono.”
A 1978 graduate of Maine, Cosgrove has compiled a 108-111 record with four NCAA tournament appearances in 20 years as head coach. The new contract raises his annual base salary from $175,000 to $186,995. Among Maine coaches, he ranks second in salary only to the $190,000 earned by men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead.
The Black Bears are coming off a 5-6 season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, likely to become even more competitive this fall with the addition of Albany and Stony Brook. In 2011, Maine reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Before signing a new contract, Cosgrove spoke with Abbott and the UMaine president, Paul Ferguson, about the school’s commitment to football and the challenges unique to the CAA’s northernmost campus.
“We want to improve things here, in all areas,” said Cosgrove, who has spent much of his recent days on the road, trying to convince talented high school players to consider Orono. “There’s so many things we learn at this time of year when we’re recruiting against our opponents, that we feel are essential to help you land top prospects. They become things you have to have a vision for.
“I signed because I believe we have that vision.”
Cosgrove said recruiting players from warmer climates to come to Maine, where game-day attendance is dwarfed by the crowds that regularly cheer for CAA competitors in the mid-Atlantic region, is one of the most challenging parts of his job.
“There are people who have never heard of Maine and others who think Maine is on the Arctic Circle up near Alaska,” Cosgrove said. “I can’t tell you how hard our assistant coaches work. We have to go further with less to accomplish those things, to educate young people and their parents about who we are and where we are.”
His previous five-year contract was due to expire in June. The program includes six full-time assistant coaches and four part-time assistants. In a prepared statement, Ferguson expressed his support for Cosgrove, who was named national coach of the year in both 2001 (for I-AA by American Football Monthly) and 2011 (for FCS Division I by New England Football Writers).
“I am especially pleased that we have finalized the contract for Coach Cos,” Ferguson said. “We have been enjoying a productive conversation with Jack over the last several months following the season’s end, both reflecting on his successful decades of service, but also on a vision for the future of Black Bear football. I look forward to continuing our close friendship and partnership with him.”
Maine will open its 122nd season Aug. 31. The school has yet to release its schedule, but for the first time it will include two games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, both of whom will pay Maine to visit them.
For agreeing to travel to Chicago to play Northwestern on Sept. 21, Maine will receive $450,000. For taking on the University of Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Sept. 7, Maine will receive $160,000.
Cosgrove said he will speak more about his incoming class of recruits — expected to be about 25 — after receiving their letters of intent by early Wednesday afternoon.
“The verbal commitments excite us,” he said.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: email@example.com