Joe Harasymiak, who guided the University of Maine football team to the first Football Championship Subdivision national semifinal appearance in school history this season, is leaving the program.
The 32-year-old Harasymiak accepted a position as the defensive backs coach at the University of Minnesota, which competes in the Big Ten Conference, according to UMaine Director of Athletics Ken Ralph.
Harasymiak will join the Golden Gophers’ staff prior to its appearance against Georgia Tech at next Wednesday’s Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, according to a University of Minnesota news release.
Harasymiak informed Ralph of his decision Thursday morning, but the subject had been on the table for a while.
“He and I have talked pretty regularly over the past few weeks,” Ralph said. “With the type of season we were having and with his reputation, he was going to be in demand.”
Harasymiak, who could not immediately be reached for comment, is expected to earn an excess of $200,000 per year in his new job.
Also on Thursday, James Madison University, one of UMaine’s Colonial Athletic Association rivals, announced that it had hired Black Bears defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman to fill that position with the Dukes.
But Ralph said the status of the position with a Big Ten program was the determining factor in Harasymiak’s decision.
“People are really fixated on the money, but money had absolutely nothing to do with this,” Ralph said.
“If he believes his future is in the FBS, Power Five [conference] level, you’ve got to take these opportunities when they come, and I’m really happy for him.”
Ralph also said Harasymiak has an agent, who has fielded most of the inquiries that have arisen about the coach’s potential availability for or interest in other jobs.
The 12th-ranked Black Bears compiled a 10-4 record during their historic season, winning the Colonial Athletic Association championship while going 7-1 against nationally ranked opponents. They also beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team, Western Kentucky.
Harasymiak directed the Black Bears to a 20-15 record, including a 15-9 CAA mark, in his three seasons in Orono. His four-year contract was set to expire June 30, 2020.
The Minnesota opportunity appears to have arisen because of a connection to some former Black Bears coaches and staff members. In Minneapolis, Harasymiak will be reunited with a former UMaine coaching colleague, Joe Rossi, who worked at UMaine from 2007 to 2011. He is the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Golden Gophers.
Rossi joined the Minnesota staff in January 2017 after four years at Rutgers and recently was elevated to defensive coordinator after another former UMaine assistant, Robb Smith, was fired in November. Rossi was the defensive coordinator at UMaine during Harasymiak’s first season there (2011-12).
UMaine has other connections at Minnesota.
Golden Gophers’ director of athletic performance for football Dan Nichol was a former strength coach for the Black Bears and Marcus Wasilewski, who quarterbacked the 2013 Black Bears to the CAA title and an NCAA playoff bid, is now an assistant strength coach at Minnesota.
Minnesota’s head coach is P.J. Fleck, who is 11-13 since taking the job in 2017. The Golden Gophers are 6-6 heading into the Quick Lane Bowl.
Harasymiak will earn substantially more money at Minnesota where, for the 2018-19 season, 10 assistant coaches split a pool of $3.2 million, according to a story by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Smith was making $710,000 as the defensive coordinator.
The story pointed out that the lowest-paid assistant, Minnesota’s “pass rush specialist,” takes home $210,000. Several coaches were above $250,000.
Harasymiak, who on Tuesday was named the American Football Coaches Association Region 1 Coach of the Year, conceded recently that he had fielded inquiries about other FCS head coaching jobs.
He said he was contacted by the University of Massachusetts and James Madison University about their head openings, which subsequently were filled.
Harasymiak was nonetheless the lowest-paid head coach in the Colonial Athletic Association. 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 earns $191,000 but can make 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.
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.
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.
BDN writers Ernie Clark and Larry Mahoney contributed to this report.