LEWISTON — Few newly-minted college graduates have compiled the football coaching resume Spencer Emerson had even before he picked up his degree in sociology from the University of Maine last spring.

Nevertheless, the Edward Little High School graduate had an inkling he’d still have some dues to pay if he wanted to continue coaching. So he wasn’t disappointed when he asked new UMaine football coach Joe Harasymiak for advice on how to get started in the college ranks.

“He talked to me about getting an entry-level job where the money’s not great and the hours stink, but everyone’s done it,” Emerson said. “You’re putting in your time.”

This fall, the 23-year-old Emerson is more than just putting in his time as part of the Bates College football coaching staff. He’s taking everything in that he can.

Yes, as Harasymiak told him, the money isn’t great, and the hours are long. But the 23-year-old is glad to be home again and learning from a knowledgeable, veteran staff, led by head coach Mark Harriman — now in his 19th year leading the Bobcats — and one of Emerson’s mentors, long-time Bates assistant and former Lewiston High School coach Skip Capone.

“I’m just getting my feet wet in this coaching thing and it’s great. I love it,’ Emerson said. “And it’s awesome to be back in L/A.”


Emerson grew up on both sides of the Twin Cities’ Battle of the Bridge. He watched his brother, Jared Turcotte, win the Fitzpatrick Trophy at Lewiston in 2006, then spent his freshman and sophomore years playing for the Blue Devils before transferring to Edward Little for his junior and senior year.

He counts former Lewiston coach Bill County and Edward Little coach Dave Sterling among his earliest coaching influences.

“Coach County, I mean, I used to babysit his kids,” Emerson said. “He’s the one that taught me about how in football, you want to help athletes become better players, but you want to help them become good people as well.”

After graduating from EL in 2011, he enrolled and played at Becker College. After a year there, he transferred to the University of Maine, where he had watched Turcotte earn All-American honors before injuries sidelined him.

Emerson admitted he briefly considered trying on the Black Bears’ uniform, too.

“I still wanted to be a part of football,” Emerson said. “I could walk on there, be a special teams guy, bust my hump, be a practice player. But I realized I really liked the x’s and o’s part and I would really like coaching.”


He asked then head coach Jack Cosgrove if he could do anything to help out the coaching staff. Cosgrove offered to make him an undergraduate video assistant.

“I started shooting video at practice, sitting in on meetings and charting stuff, and it turned into me falling in love with it,” he said.

He spent three springs and two falls on the staff, earning a ring in 2013 when the Black Bears won the Colonial Athletic Association.

His senior year at UMaine, Old Town High School coach Lance Cowan named him the Coyotes’ defensive coordinator, making Emerson one of the youngest coaches in the state.

“I was very fortunate to have some good players up there,” said Emerson, who helped lead the Coyotes to an unbeaten regular-season record before they were upset by eventual state champion Winslow in the Class C North final.

He emailed another one of his mentors, Capone, expressing his desire to get into college coaching. Harriman named him cornerbacks coach after interviewing him and hearing recommendations from Cosgrove and UMaine linebackers coach Mike Ryan, who started his career at Bates. 


“He’s been a great addition to our staff,” Harriman said. “He’s passionate. He’s knowledgeable. Any time you put those things together in a young coach, you get a guy who’s going to be very successful.”

Emerson said Bates seemed to be the right fit immediately.

“Coach Harriman, he’s Bates football. It feels like as long as I’ve known what football was, he’s been here,” Emerson said. “When I walked into his office for my interview, I felt a level of comfort you don’t feel with many coaches. He’s super-approachable, very similar to Jack Cosgrove in that sense — an older guy who’s very wise. They’ve forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know.”

He still has plenty of football knowledge to impart, and this year he has a veteran group of cornerbacks, led by all-NESCAC senior Brandon Williams, to offer his own wisdom.

“We’re a little thin but very talented. And I’m very fortunate to be walking into a situation where I have an all-conference player and a group of guys that are good enough to play on Saturdays,” he said.

Of course, being nearly the same age as his players, Emerson has to strike a balance between being an authority figure but still being approachable to the players.


“Joe Herasymiak, being a 30-year-old head coach of a D1 school, kind of showed me how you find that balance of being able to go up to a player and get on him but he doesn’t feel like it’s somebody lecturing him,” he said. “Last year at Old Town was really helpful in developing almost my own voice, developing a way to convey a message without seeming as if I’m trying to be their friend or trying to sound older than I am.”

“For his age, his knowledge is really good,” Harriman said. “Guys his age who were playing think they know the ropes about coaching. But for a guy who has been involved in coaching, he’s got a lot more of that type of knowledge than most guys that are starting out their college career.”

As excited as he is to start at the Division 3 level, Emerson hopes to ultimately coach Division 1 some day.

“It’s a dream, but it’s also a realistic goal,” he said. “I’ve seen people put the work in. I know a lot of people that started where I am, doing the grunt work, staying long hours, cutting up film, and now they’re working in the Ivy League and the Big 10.”

“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from guys like Harriman, Capone and (defensive coordinator Duncan) Averill and just gain as much knowledge as I can,” he added with a smile. “I’m going to be here a lot, and it’s not for the money, I’ll tell you that.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.