Jack Cosgrove admitted that he got “worn down” as the head football coach at the University of Maine, so he decided to step down in 2015 after 23 years of guiding the fortunes of the Black Bears.

He departed as the winningest football coach in school history, producing a 129-135 record. He then became a senior associate director of athletics at UMaine and served in that capacity for two years.

But he missed coaching, so he will return to the sidelines 64 miles south of Orono in Waterville next fall as the head football coach of the NCAA Division III Colby College Mules, who are coming off a 1-8 campaign in which their average losing margin was 21 points.

He will replace Jonathan Michaeles, who stepped down after going 14-35 during his six seasons. His best season was a 4-4 showing in 2013.

Cosgrove will start on Monday, Jan. 8.

The 62-year-old Cosgrove said Friday night that the coaching bug “never left me.

“(As a senior associate director of athletics) I still interacted with student-athletes and coaches on a pretty large scale, but it didn’t seem to be enough,” said Cosgrove. “It’s not the same as when you’re in charge of a large group … when you’re the leader. I missed the relationships.”

As a coach, he said, interaction is “much more specific and, at times, it’s even confrontational. You’re providing expectations for your student-athletes and it’s your job to see that they get there. You want to provide an environment that allows them to succeed.”

Cosgrove said by getting away from the grind of coaching, he found himself “regenerated and reinvigorated.”

He said he began feeling healthy again and that he is grateful to UMaine President Susan Hunter and athletic director Karlton Creech for giving him an opportunity to step away from coaching but still stay involved in athletics.

“I wouldn’t have felt the itch to go back into coaching (without it). I’m blessed. They have been so supportive at Maine. It has allowed me to be young again,” said Cosgrove.

“I was a little tired of watching Gabby (Husson University football coach Gabby Price) have all that fun at Husson,” quipped Cosgrove.

Cosgrove insists that the state of Maine and its unique geographical challenges enable student-athletes to develop a “better focus and commitment to become great student-athletes and young men.”

As much as he wanted to get back into coaching, remaining in the state of Maine was a top priority for Cosgrove.

“If Colby was in Maryland, I wouldn’t have taken the job,” he said.

He said he and his family feel “indebted to this state” for the quality of life it has provided them.

Cosgrove said he will build the program the way he did at UMaine, although he won’t have athletic scholarships. His student-athletes will also have to meet different academic standards.

“One of the greatest things we did at Maine was to identify players nobody else was recruiting and grow and develop them. That list is long and includes players like (NFL players) Trevor Bates and Pat Ricard along with (former NFLers) Mike DeVito and Lofa Tatupu. That is very rewarding,” said Cosgrove. “There are plenty of players out there.”

He will stress fundamentals, physical, hard-nosed football on both sides of the ball, and make sure he has a quarterback who can throw and has the ability to run when he needs to.

“Jack’s extensive coaching experience, energy and proven success make him the right person to lead Colby football into a new era,” said Colby director of athletics Jake Olkkola in the Colby release.

“First and foremost, we’re all excited for Jack,” said UMaine senior associate athletic director for development Seth Woodcock on Friday afternoon. “When you’re a Division I coach for that many years, it’s in your blood.

“Jack had settled into an administrative role. It’s a different world being around all the sports. It’s not the same as being on the sidelines, for sure,” added Woodcock, who admitted he was surprised by the move. “Jack is always going to be a UMaine guy. I’m going to miss him, but it’s a real good opportunity for Jack and for Colby football.”

Two of Colby’s captains, Shane Normandeau and Sebastien Philemon, were on the advisory search committee and wrote via email in the news release that they are looking forward to having Cosgrove on board.

“We are extremely happy to have Coach Cosgrove as our next head coach,” they wrote. “The minute we met him, we knew he was somebody we wanted to learn from and be coached by. We are excited for this coming year and for the future of the Colby football program.”

The Sharon, Mass., native guided the Black Bears to five Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances. UMaine reached the national quarterfinals three times.

Cosgrove, a 1978 UMaine graduate, was a Black Bears quarterback and passed for 2,836 yards, which is 11th best in program history.

“His service to the University of Maine has made a tremendous positive impact on our student-athletes, coaches, staff and community,” said Creech. “Many of the great achievements in the history of UMaine athletics have taken place during Jack’s time as a student-athlete, assistant coach, head coach and senior administrator.”

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