Joe Harasymiak landed his dream job – at triple his salary – and didn’t even have time to think about celebrating after he had become the youngest head coach in Division I football.

Instead, the University of Maine’s 29-year-old coach was on a 5:40 a.m. flight to Washington, D.C., with two of his assistants in tow on a recruiting mission.

“We had to get out and attack that right away,” said Harasymiak, whose hiring was announced Wednesday after a three-week search for Jack Cosgrove’s replacement.

Harasymiak had been a UMaine assistant for five seasons, the past two as defensive coordinator.

Cosgrove stepped aside Nov. 24 to take an administrative position in the athletic department after 23 years at the Black Bears’ helm.

Harasymiak will earn $150,000 a season for the next four years, under terms of a contract he signed Tuesday and that takes effect Jan. 1. He was making $53,000 as defensive coordinator.



UMaine attracted a pool of 25-30 candidates for the job while Harasymiak was handling duties as interim coach, said Athletic Director Karlton Creech. Four finalists, all with ties to the university, got video interviews. Harasymiak and one other candidate then had interviews on campus. Creech wouldn’t identify the other candidate.

Harasymiak impressed the seven-member search committee with his enthusiasm and preparedness, Creech said. It also helped that they had seen the progress he made in coaching a defense that ranked in the top three of the Colonial Athletic Association and the top 20 nationally among Football Championship Subdivision schools in 2015.

Harasymiak got word Tuesday that he was the choice, and drove the 15 minutes to his home in Brewer so he could break the news to his wife, Brittany, in person. She is a middle school teacher in Old Town.

Then it was back out on the road Wednesday morning, with Cory Hetherman and Nick Charlton, to work on shoring up recruits before high school seniors can make official commitments to colleges Feb. 3. When Harasymiak was reached by phone early Wednesday afternoon, the trio already had visited two high schools and had two home visits lined up for the evening. Celebrating the big news would have to wait.

“I think maybe that’s what showed them obviously that I can handle the workload,” Harasymiak said of serving as interim coach while also doing two formal interviews for the permanent job. “I’m looking forward to that grind.”


Harasymiak is a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, and played football at Springfield College in Massachusetts, captaining the team in 2007. His coaching career started the next fall at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, followed by two years back at his alma mater as wide receivers/quarterbacks coach. UMaine hired him in 2011 to coach defensive backs, before promoting him to coordinator before the 2014 season.

Cosgrove recommended Harasymiak to be interim coach when he left, and, as a member of the search committee, pushed for his protege to get the permanent job. Creech said he wanted to conduct a national search to see what other options were out there, but Harasymiak kept making every cut.

Ultimately, it was his track record as coach and a desire for continuity that swayed the committee, Creech said.

“If we were to completely change everything about the program – head coach, staff – that would be disruptive,” Creech said. “I had observed him quite a bit (in the previous two seasons). You watch him coach on the sideline, you watch him at practice, he has presence. He has the clear respect of the players.”

That was echoed by junior middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga.

“He is a great leader. He is loved by everyone,” Tshimanga said. “I have the highest respect for Coach Hari and I can’t wait to get it going!”



The initial challenge for Harasymiak will be recruiting, and he can now reassure potential Black Bears that there is no more uncertainty about who will be the head coach. He said he was unaware of any recruits that UMaine had lost during the three-week search for Cosgrove’s replacement.

“We have really done a great job of evaluating and we’ve targeted guys that we’ll have a shot at,” Harasymiak said. “If you’re honest, if you build that relationship, obviously that’s only going to reap benefits in the end. We said this is what it is. I’m the interim head coach. We’re going to try and get you an answer as fast as we can.”

Next week, Harasymiak will meet with the current 10 assistant coaches, all of whom remain under contract. He said he hasn’t had time to ponder who will be retained, and in what role. He’ll have to replace himself as defensive coordinator, and faces a bigger challenge on offense, which has been an underachieving unit the past two seasons under the direction of Kevin Bourgoin.

The team finished 3-8 this season, with 39 of its 135 possessions ending without a first down. Another 23 drives on which UMaine did gain a first down ended on plays of fourth-and-10 or longer. Alternating between quarterbacks Dan Collins and Drew Belcher, with a running game that never could find traction, the Black Bears averaged a mere 14.4 points per game.



“I want to take advantage of our personnel the right way. I want to highlight guys’ talent, put our guys in the best position to be successful,” Harasymiak said. “My experience (on offense) is having to defend the great offenses in the (Colonial Athletic Association). I’ve witnessed what it takes.” Cosgrove, who has the most wins of any football coach at UMaine with a record of 129-135, was impressed with Harasymiak from the moment he hired him in February 2011.

“It just kept dawning on me that this young man has a lot of the skills that are required as a head coach. Great command of himself, great command of people around him, of a room, of a defensive meeting, of a practice. He has a great coaching voice because it’s loud and it’s clear,” Cosgrove said. “These are things that it’s not hard to pick up when you’ve been in the business as long as I’ve been. It smacks you in the face and it’s pretty obvious.

“I’m very proud to be able to execute a handoff to a guy that has a very, very bright future in front of him.”

Harasymiak said he was instructed by Creech to prepare himself for the job interviews as if he were an outside candidate. He was excited about that process, he said, even though it meant days of waiting to hear if he had advanced to the next round. He reached out to Cosgrove for advice, but also wanted to be sure that the job was something he earned on his own.

“I have a lot of self-pride. I really felt like I proved myself,” Harasymiak said.

“The only opportunity I had to go forward with this position was because of my growth and development in this program,” he said. “I’ve been on (Colonial Athletic Association) title teams (in 2013) and I just went through a 3-8 season.

“I feel like I’m a person that brings energy and passion and unmatched enthusiasm to work every day.”


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