Mark Harriman before a practice during the 2017 preseason. Harriman resigned as Bates College’s football coach in April. His last day on the job is Wednesday. (Sun Journal file photo)

LEWISTON — When he looks back, the football games Mark Harriman has been part of usually stay in the past.

Mark Harriman

“Even as a player, I’ve never really one of those guys,” Harriman said. “My roommate from college (Jack Quinn) — who was a great player, he had a cup of coffee with the NFL — he’ll call me up and say, ‘Remember this game? The score and all that?’ And I’ll be like, ‘No. I remember the game, but I don’t remember the score.’”

Wednesday is Harriman’s final day as the head coach of the Bates College football team. He’s leaving after 20 years of leading Bates football, and, more important to him, 20 years of leading then men who wore the Bates uniform.

“The guys that I’ve worked with on a daily basis, that’s what’s always done it for me,” Harriman, who announced his resignation in April, said. “I’ve absolutely loved working with these type of guys that are motivated academically, motivated athletically.”

Harriman, a Westbrook native, is leaving his job and his home state to join his family in California.

His son has lived there for several years. More importantly, his wife and former Bates assistant athletic director, Sue, was hired as the athletic director at the University of California-Santa Cruz in December.

“My son and his family, our grandkids, have been out in California for almost 10 years now,” Harriman said. “So we knew we’d be out there eventually, but with the opportunity that Sue had, it was time.”

Mark Harriman said that when Sue was first hired at UC-Santa Cruz, it was up in the air whether or not he would remain at Bates.

“The 3,000 miles was just, it was a little much,” Mark Harriman said.

Important wins

There are a few moments that stand out to Harriman (though he wasn’t sure of the years).

There was the first time Bates beat Williams in 2003 — in Williamstown, no less. Also, when the Bobcats earned their first win over Tufts in 25 years with a 21-20 win in 2010.

Another big moment went national: “The game where Jamie Walter got that picture in Sports Illustrated being tackled by the Colby guys,” Harriman said.

It happened in 2006, when Garcelon Field still had grass. So much rain fell that the grass turned to mud, and the Bobcats’ and Mules’ offenses got stuck.

Colby finally won 10-7 with a field goal in the fourth overtime.

“Nobody could move the ball after a while, so we were both just trying to kick field goals,” Harriman said. “It was just a matter of trying to get a dry spot to kick a short field goal, and nobody could. Finally, they hit it.”

Bates senior Jamie Walker (39) carries the ball in the driving rain against Colby College in Oct. 2006, at Garcelon Field. Colby won the game in four overtimes. This photo was featured in Sports Illustrated. (Sun Journal file photo)

The entire Colby-Bates-Bowdoin rivalry series was always special to Harriman. And he found significant success over Bates’ Maine brethren, winning four straight CBB titles, and seven overall.

“The whole CBB, that was always a great part of the tradition,” Harriman said.

Bates through and through

Harriman hasn’t just been a football coach since he arrived at Bates in 1998. He’s served as an assistant athletic director since 2005, and his Bates bio says he also is the football team’s academic coordinator and admissions liaison. He has also been immersed in the Bates community beyond athletics.

“There’s not doubt that he loves the place and the people here,” Bates athletic director Jason Fein said. “I think that’s obvious when you talk to him. He’s well-known on campus, well-known amongst parents, well-known amongst alums.”

Harriman amassed a 46-115 win-loss record with the Bobcats, his first head coaching job. In 2012, he was named NESCAC Coach of the Year. That season was the beginning of three straight in which the Bobcats finished with a winning percentage of .500, the first time that had happend in school history since 1979,

Harriman realized early in his life that he wanted to be a football coach.

“A lot of my role models growing up, besides my dad, were my coaches. And my dad was a junior high school teacher,” Harriman said. “So originally I thought I wanted to be a high school coach and teacher.

“I had the opportunity to go to Springfield (College)— obviously, (developing coaches) is what they’re renowned for. When I got there, there was a huge network of college coaches.”

After graduating from Springfield, Harriman started as an assistant coach (first as a graduate assistant, then intern assistant, then full-time assistant) at UMaine, where he also served as the head wrestling coach.

He followed Ron Rogerson from Orono to Princeton, and stayed for nine years before spending four years as a defensive coordinator at Harvard.

Harriman’s time in the Ivy League enlightened him to the type of student-athletics he wanted to coach.

“Yeah, would I like them to be faster, bigger, stronger? That’s why you coach Division I,” Harriman said. “As far as their passion for the game, their work ethic in everything they do, that, to me, is what always made it enjoyable.”

The “everything they do” extends beyond both the field and the classroom. Harriman expresses his pride in defensive lineman Walter Washington, who is Bates’ student body president. Same goes for quarterback/diveback Matt Golden, who is involved in dance during the school’s short term, and others who are participating in such things as singing in a capella groups.

Mark of all trades

Similar to his players’ wide range of interests, Harriman has played many roles with the Bobcats.

He came to Bates as a defensive coordinator, and, naturally, he spent some time running the Bobcats’ defense. But over two decades, he has coached every other part of the team, too. Even offensive coordinator, and even the quarterbacks — under his tutelage, Trevor Smith was the first Bates quarterback to earn All-NESCAC honors.

“Very few guys, I think, in the course of their career, especially at the higher levels, let alone coach on both sides of the ball, get an opportunity to be involved in all the aspects of it,” Harriman said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

That ability to reinvent himself came in handy when it came to dealing with the changing times and changing type of players.

“The hardest part for me was I came kicking and screaming into the technological era,” Harriman said. “You email a kid now, you might not get a response for a few days. Text him, and it comes back in 10 seconds.”

The athletes in 2018 also are different than the athletes in 1998. Coaches have had to recognize that not every player learns the same way. And they have to be much better at communicating.

“Obviously, I think I’ve become more patient,” Harriman said. “I joke around with some of the guys that played for me earlier in my career that think I’m a much softer version of what I used to be. I think that some of it’s the times.”

Harriman’s future

Harriman has been involved for a while in football consulting and camps, and plans to be more involved in those when he gets to California.

He also is open to coaching in the future.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Bates’ future

As for who will take over Harriman’s office at Underhill Arena, Fien said the search is well underway. He hopes it won’t take long to make a decision of who will be the 20th football coach in Bates College history.

“Let’s just say sooner rather than later,” Fein said. “I think it’s important that our student-athletes and fans and alums have a sense and a direction sooner rather than later, and I think everyone would agree with that, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

 


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