University of Maine season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine plans to significantly increase the salary of the football head coach and assistants as it conducts a national search to fill the top spot. 

A small search committee will move swiftly to name a new head football coach by Dec. 15 and plans to boost the pay of what has long been the lowest paid coaching position in the conference to be more in line with other Colonial Athletic Association head coaches.

Nick Charlton made $153,000 per year, compared with the average conference head coach salary of $400,000. 

The school reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in school history in 2018, and has since lost two head coaches to higher paying positions. For the program to become a consistent FCS playoff contender, UMaine director of athletics Ken Ralph said it needs to make a financial commitment to lure a quality head coach to establish UMaine as a football power.

“I want somebody who wants to be the head coach at the University of Maine, not somebody who just wants to be a head coach,” Ralph said.” And it has to be someone who has the skillset to elevate this program to be consistently excellent. We want sustained excellence.”

Ralph wants to find a replacement for Charlton before the National Letter of Intent signing day for college football recruits, and hopes moving quickly will lessen the chances of current players opting to transfer out of the program. 

But he’s also aware of the importance of the position and the need to make the right selection.

“We aren’t going to let speed deprive us of the right hire,” Ralph said.

Ralph didn’t have an exact number of the pay increase at this time but said the salary will be more in line with what other CAA schools pay their head football coaches. 

Ralph met with UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and said she agreed that they had to sweeten the pot for the new coach and his staff.

“The president recognizes the need to do more to make sure the young men involved in our program have some stability,” Ralph said.

Charlton left to become the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Football Bowl Subdivision School the University of Connecticut. Charlton was the lowest paid coach in the Colonial Athletic Association at $153,000 per year.

The next lowest-paid coach is the University of Rhode Island’s Jim Fleming, who made $263,000 per year according to URI employee payroll records from 2020. 

When UMaine defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman left UMaine following the CAA championship season of 2018 to take a similar position at CAA rival James Madison, he earned $150,000, just $3,000 less than UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak.

Harasymiak left after that season, in which UMaine reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in school history, to coach the defensive backs at FBS school Minnesota.

Since the 2000 season, the UMaine football program has had nine winning records in league play in the Atlantic-10 and now the CAA, seven losing seasons and six in which the Black Bears were at .500, including the past three.

They have reached the FCS playoffs five times in those 22 seasons. 

Ralph named UMaine offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Andrew Dresner the interim head coach on Wednesday and Dresner said he hopes to land the permanent job.

“Andrew is a good candidate,” Ralph said.

But he also said there are plenty of other quality candidates, including some they recruited.

“The job is more attractive than it has ever been,” said Ralph, referring to future upgrades to the facilities thanks to the $90 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation to improve all the athletic facilities at UMaine.

The football upgrades will include new coaches offices, locker room and video/meeting room, a strength and conditioning center, indoor practice facility and an outdoor artificial practice field.