[Update: On December 20, 2018, it was reported that Joe Harasymiak has accepted a position as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota. Read the full story here.]
In his third season as a head coach, Joe Harasymiak guided the University of Maine to its first Football Championship Subdivision national semifinal appearance in school history.
The 12th-ranked Black Bears compiled a 10-4 record during their historic season, winning the Colonial Athletic Association championship and going 7-1 against nationally ranked opponents. They also beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team, Western Kentucky.
And UMaine returns 18 starters, so prospects for next season are good.
The question now is, will Harasymiak will be the coach in 2019?
With success comes attention, and the 32-year-old has already been fielding inquiries about other FCS coaching jobs. On Tuesday, he was named the American Football Coaches Association Region 1 Coach of the Year.
Harasymiak was contacted by administrators from University of Massachusetts and James Madison University about their coaching jobs, which subsequently were filled.
“I did have an initial conversation with each school, but it went no further than that,” Harasymiak said. “That’s all it was.”
Harasymiak is the lowest-paid head coach in the Colonial Athletic Association at $153,000 per year. He signed a four-year contract in December 2015 that extends through June 30, 2020.
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By comparison, the UMass job pays $625,000 plus an annual $25,000 retention bonus, although the Minutemen compete in the FBS with higher-level programs. The position at JMU, which with UMaine competes in the CAA, has a base salary of $425,000.
Despite the attention from other schools, Harasymiak said he is focused on his present position.
“I am the head coach at the University of Maine right now, and I’m focusing on wrapping up our season,” Harasymiak said. “I am just worrying about being the best head coach I can possibly be. We have early [National Letter of Intent] signing day on Wednesday. I’m going to do my job, and we’ll see what comes up.”
Harasymiak has directed the Black Bears to a 20-15 record, including a 15-9 CAA mark, in his three seasons.
According to a source at one CAA institution, the average guaranteed income for a head coach in the 11-team league is $360,000 per year. After Harasymiak, the next lowest-paid coach is Rhode Island’s Jim Fleming who, in his fifth season, earns $191,000 per year but can earn an extra $55,000 in bonuses.
UMaine is one of only two schools in the conference that does not offer bonuses to its coaches, the source said.
UMaine athletics director Ken Ralph said he wants to reward Harasymiak with a raise and keep him in Orono.
“I met with Joe. I would obviously like him to continue as our football coach. That’s a major focus of ours,” Ralph said. “But I also want to support him if other opportunities arise. I don’t want to be overly selfish and prevent him from exploring other opportunities.”
It’s a reality faced by every college athletics director and Ralph recognizes the forces that lead coaches to consider taking other jobs are out of his control.
“He is a rising star in his profession. He is a sharp, young coach with an incredible future,” Ralph said. “I understand why other schools are after him. If other [athletic directors] aren’t after him, they aren’t doing their jobs.”
[How UMaine’s underdog football team turned tragedy into a conference title]
Ralph said money to fund a significant pay increase for Harasymiak would have to come from private donors because the UMaine athletics budget is tight.
“[Donor money] is really the only option we have, but the problem is how do we sustain it year after year?” Ralph said. “We’re pretty resource-strapped. There’s not much we can do within our budgetary framework.”
Under Harasymiak, UMaine claimed the school’s first FCS home playoff win (55-27 over Jacksonville State) and its first quarterfinal victory (23-18 at Weber State).
UMaine, which went 7-1 in the CAA after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll, was eliminated by Eastern Washington 50-19 in the semifinals Saturday.
If Harasymiak were to leave before his contract expires, UMaine would receive a buyout of $153,000, or one year’s salary.
Ralph said UMaine athletics is hamstrung in part by the fact the university does not have an annual athletics fee assessed to all students, as is the case at most other CAA schools.
For example, William & Mary students pay an annual athletic fee of $1,439.50, while James Madison students pay $1,400. New Hampshire has an athletics fee of $1,075 and Towson’s is $956, while Albany ($600) and Stony Brook ($557) charge smaller amounts.
Harasymiak, a native of Waldwick, New Jersey, was a football captain at Springfield College where he earned a degree in physical education in 2008.
He had assistant coaching stints at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and Springfield College before joining UMaine in 2011 as an assistant coach under then head coach Jack Cosgrove. He coached defensive backs for three seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the 2014 and 2015 campaigns.
Harasymiak was selected to replace 23-year head coach Cosgrove in December 2015.
Harasymiak and his wife, Brittany, have a daughter, Sophie.