Nick Charlton, center, talks with UMaine quarterback Chris Ferguson, left, and Isaiah Robinson during a spring practice in April in Orono. Charlton, the Black Bears’ offensive cordinator last season, was named head coach on Friday, replacing Joe Harasymiak. (Kevin Bennett photo)

The University of Maine, as it turns out, had its next football coach lined up and ready to go.

Nick Charlton, the Black Bears’ offensive coordinator, was named the 36th head coach in program history Friday, one day after Joe Harasymiak resigned to become a defensive assistant coach at the University of Minnesota.

Charlton turned 30 on Thursday. He becomes the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I football, a distinction held by Harasymiak this past season.

“I’m certainly young, but so was Joe when he took over and at the end of the day it’s about the quality of what you’re trying to do and the effect you have on players,” Charlton said.

Charlton said he began to have conversations about possibly succeeding Harasymiak shortly after Maine’s season ended last Saturday with a 50-19 loss at Eastern Washington.

“He had been approached by a number of teams, so had a few others of us,” Charlton said. “That’s just the nature of the business when you have success.”

“It didn’t come as a surprise (that Harasymiak left) so we were preparing ourselves to be ready to go,” said Ken Ralph, Maine’s director of athletics. “Nick interviewed with (UMaine) President (Joan) Ferrini-Mundy and myself late last night and we had further discussions today and the chancellor signed off on the hire late this afternoon.”

Charlton takes over a team that went 10-4 this fall and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in program history.

He was a first-year offensive coordinator in 2018 in his fourth season on the football staff. Maine’s offense averaged 26.5 points per game, its best output since 2013. Running back Ramon Jefferson became the first freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards in Maine history. Sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson threw for 2,372 yards and 22 touchdowns, which included a school record five touchdown passes in Maine’s FCS playoff win against Jacksonville State.

Ralph said that Harasymiak was “100 percent” behind Charlton being Maine’s next head coach.

Maine’s players agreed.

“I can’t think of anybody more suited to lead us and take over the helm of this program and continue the success that we had this year,” Ferguson said. “That’s definitely echoed through the team.”

Maine is expected to return 16 of its 22 starters, plus its kicking specialists, from a team that won the Colonial Athletic Conference championship in 2018.

“The program is in good shape,” Ralph said. “When you know there’s going to be stability in the coaching staff and stability in the players and a strong group coming back, it’s easier to hire a first-time head coach.”

Charlton spent his first season at Maine as the wide receivers coach. He was the Black Bears’ special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2016 and 2017.

“What’s big is that he was the special teams coordinator. He was able to build relationships with the defensive players and guys on the other side of the ball,” Ferguson said. “People know who he is and what type of guy and what kind of leader he is.”

“Nick has a great rapport with the students. He cares about them deeply, and that’s important,” Ralph said. “The second thing about Nick is he’s very organized. And the third thing has to do with the ancillary things that come with being a head coach, dealing with donors, sponsors, the media, the public. Nick is well equipped to deal with those elements.”

Ralph declined to say how much Charlton will be paid, saying that the contract is unlikely to be finalized until early January. Harasymiak made $153,000 in 2018, his third season as Maine’s head coach.

Charlton will be responsible for filling out his coaching staff, which now has vacancies at both offensive and defensive coordinator. Corey Hetherman, Maine’s defensive coordinator this season, also resigned Thursday to take the same position at James Madison University.

“We will name an offensive coordinator. We have to hire a defensive coordinator,” Charlton said. “We want to move quickly and hire the right people, but at the same time we have to make the right decisions for the program.”

The other immediate task is recruiting. Maine received commitments from four players Wednesday in the early signing period, but still has work left before the next signing period starts on Feb. 6.

“We’ve already reached out to a number of recruits and in the next 24 hours we will make sure we have conversations with everybody,” Charlton said. “Those we have reached out to, the reception has been very good.”

“Recruiting is the No. 1 thing. You have to get great players and great people and then you have to develop them.”

Harasymiak has not returned phone and text messages from the Press Herald since accepting his new position, but he went on Twitter on Thursday evening to speak of his time at UMaine.

“It has been a truly grateful experience to be the head coach at the University of Maine for the past three seasons,” he wrote. “For the last eight years of my life, I have learned that the people and community around UMaine are truly what make it special.”

Harasymiak went on to praise his players and thank their families before saying the UMaine football program “only scratched the surface in 2018 of how truly great they will become. They will be back. Maine will always have a special place in my heart.”

In a university press release, Harasymiak said of Charlton, “Nick is ready to lead the UMaine football program. His work ethic and accountability to his players will be evident right from the start.”

Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Charlton grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston College in 2011. He began his coaching career at BC, where he worked as a graduate assistant from January 2012 until being hired by Maine in March 2015. At BC, Charlton worked closely with then offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who will become Ohio State’s head coach in 2019.

“I think Nick Charlton is a terrific coach who is going to be outstanding as the head coach for the University of Maine,” Day said in the press release.

Charlton and his wife, Maria, have a 1-year-old daughter. They are expecting their second child in May.

“This has really become our second home,” he said. “Our daughter was born here and it’s an important place to us now. Now it’s become really our community.”


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