Former University of Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove speaks with media during a news conference at Colby College on Monday. Cosgrove is the new football coach for Colby. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)
WATERVILLE — The coach who acknowledged being battered by the grind of his old job couldn’t help but smile as he got started on his new one.
The Jack Cosgrove era officially began at Colby College on Monday afternoon, with the school formally introducing the former University of Maine football coach as the new coach of the Mules during a media event at the Harold Alfond Athletic Center.
It’s a return to the sideline for Cosgrove, who stepped down as the Maine coach after the 2015 season and soon found himself yearning for a chance to return to the field. On Monday, he stressed how thrilled he was to have found it.
“I missed it so much,” said Cosgrove, who worked the past two seasons as the senior associated director of athletics at UMaine. “One day on this campus, you feel a vision and a set of aspirations and expectations that really complement the leadership here. I was blown away by it. I came down to visit on campus for one day, and I drove home, I was going to make phone calls, and all I wanted to do was smile and say, ‘I want that job. I want that job.’
“I’m grateful I got the call, I’m excited to be here. … It means a lot to be thought of in the way that you can make an impact and change young lives.”
Landing the three-time finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as Division I FCS’s top coach was a major move for a Colby team that has had a losing record the past four seasons. Athletic director Jake Olkkola said as much.
“Aspirations across our entire campus, frankly, have really never been higher,” he said. “To turn our championship aspirations into a reality, we recognize that we need to recruit. We need to recruit the best student-athletes to Colby, we need to recruit the best staff, and we need to recruit the best coaches. That is what I think we’ve done here for our football program.”
Cosgrove’s mood was far removed from where it was after the 2015 season, when he resigned as the coach of a team he had guided to five Division I-AA (now D-I FCS) playoff berths after feeling burned out by the relentless pressure of leading a Division I football program.
“I stepped away because, I’m not ashamed to say, the grind had kind of worn me down,” he said. “The recruiting rides out to Pittsburgh and to Baltimore and to Buffalo, those are things that can tax you a little bit.”
The administrative job in Orono allowed Cosgrove to step back from what he called his “tunnel vision” and see the overall operation of college athletics, however. And after a year with his new perspective, he realized how much he missed his old one.
“I think this fall it just became, ‘OK, do I have what it takes?’ ” he said. “Because this is a grind. Football is football. Wherever you are, it’s a grind. The recruiting business has really gotten incredibly challenging. It involves all levels and you just want to make sure you know what you’re getting into so you can give all of yourself.”
Cosgrove realized he still could and wanted to, and when the Colby opening emerged, he had the other prerequisite of staying in Maine taken care of.
“I don’t know that any other job would have appealed to me,” said Cosgrove, who said he turned down several offers to leave the Black Bears while he was raising his family. “It had a special feel to it.”
One of the Colby staffers in attendance Monday was track and field coach Dave Cusano, a former UMaine defensive back who played for Cosgrove from 2000-02. Cusano said he knows what the Mules can expect when the season begins.
“Endless energy and passion,” he said. “He’s going to be the type of man that puts his arm around you when you need it, and puts a foot where it needs to go when you need that, too. … They’re getting something that they didn’t bargain for when they first got here, but they’re getting it now.”
Current Colby players, including offensive lineman and captain Shane Normandeau and quarterback Jack O’Brien, were on hand as well.
“I think he’s going to bring a certain toughness and attitude to the program,” O’Brien said. “That’s going to be his style, that’s seemed to be his style from years past. That’s what he’s going to bring to Colby, and that’s what we’re so excited about.”
The move from Division I to Division III wasn’t one that seemed to faze Cosgrove — though he acknowledged that there will be differences to which he’ll need to adjust.
“They’re different institutions. The admissions standards are different, no scholarships here in terms of a financial piece,” he said. “We may have less time, so that kind of amps up the need for us to be more efficient with our time in meetings and all those types of things.”
On the field, however, Cosgrove said he’ll teach the same brand of football he brought to Orono for more than two decades.
“Football is football. … In terms of coaching, there will be no difference on the field,” he said. “I’m going to coach it as hard as I coached it at Maine. I suspect these young gentlemen in here have those demands of me to be coached and to be mentored. … Players are going to be evaluating me and the staff. This is all new, and I want to meet their demands. If I come up short, they have a right to be upset.”
Former University of Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove listens during introduction as the new Colby College head football coach during a news conference on the Waterville campus Monday. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)Former University of Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove, left, speaks with Colby College football player Shane Normandeau following a news conference on the Waterville campus Monday. Cosgrove is the new football coach for Colby. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Staff Photographer)Former University of Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove speaks with members of the Colby College football team during a news conference on the Waterville campus on Monday. Cosgrove is the new coach for Colby. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)Members of the Colby College football team listen to coach Jack Cosgrove during a news conference on the Waterville campus Monday. (Staff Photo by David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)