Andrew Dresner has been an assistant coach with the University of Maine football program for four years, overseeing the development of quarterbacks Joe Fagnano and Derek Robertson. Photo courtesy of University of Maine athletics

Andrew Dresner was driving back to Orono on Wednesday from Montreal, where he was meeting one of the top high school football recruits in Canada and his family, when he was named the interim head coach of the University of Maine football program.

Dresner appreciates the opportunity, but he wants more.

“My goal is to become the permanent head coach at the University of Maine,” said Dresner, who has been the offensive coordinator at Maine the last three years.

Dresner, 33, is replacing Nick Charlton, the head coach for the last three years who became the offensive coordinator at the University of Connecticut. Charlton’s move was first reported on Sunday.

Maine Athletic Director Ken Ralph said the school will move quickly to fill the position full-time. “It’ll be measured in days, not weeks,” he said.

A search committee, likely to include six people, is being set up. Ralph said the school has received many applications for the position already, some that the school reached out to. “We’re being aggressive,” he said.

“We’re trying to cast a very wide net,” said Ralph. “We’re trying to get more diverse backgrounds. There is no one path to being a head coach. We’re trying to look at guys who are ready in different ways.”

And, Ralph added, “One thing we do know is Andrew Dresner is going to get a look. But he’s going to have to win it in an open process.”

Dresner, said Ralph, “has got a great feel for the game. … Andrew is on track to be a head coach. It made a lot of sense to put him in this role so the students had some stability and the recruits saw we had a head coach. This is about moving forward and doing what’s next.”

Dresner said he hopes to bring some stability to the program. The last two head coaches, Joe Harasymiak and Charlton, each left for assistant coach roles at larger Football Bowl Subdivision programs after three years. Dresner sees a bright future at Maine, especially with the plans to transform Alfond Stadium, using funds from the $90 million donation made to the athletic program from the Harold Alfond Foundation.

“Since this news broke, a lot of people have asked me if this is a stepping-stone job,” said Dresner. “For now, that couldn’t be more opposite of the truth. What we have on the horizon with facilities, the young nucleus of talent we have with three, four or five years of eligibility remaining, the fact that my wife is expecting our first child in April, there are a lot of reasons for me to want to build this thing and be here for the future.”

Ralph said university officials understand the need to raise the salaries of all the football coaches in order to be competitive. Harasymiak and Charlton were each making $153,000 at Maine, the lowest head coaching salaries in the Colonial Athletic Association. As offensive coordinator, Dresner was making $63,674.87. He will receive a stipend for however long he is the interim head coach.

Ralph met with UMaine President Jean Ferrini-Mundy on Tuesday to discuss salaries.

“She realizes if we’re going to attract high level coaches and retain high level coaches, we’ve got to be more competitive,” he said. “She’s very understanding of the need to provide a great experience for these students. The coach-player relationship is crucial to these kids having a positive time here in Orono. She recognizes the fact we need more stability there, and increases in those areas can only help us.”

With the NCAA’s early signing period for Division I football approaching on Dec. 15-17, Ralph said it is important to have a head coach in place.

“We want to make sure we have a handful of players ready to commit,” he said. “And we’ve got to be conscious of the transfer portal (for athletes). We didn’t have that the last time we filled the position. We need a coach here to keep our team together. Before players take their finals and leave to go home for the holidays, we want them to be able to connect with the head coach.”

Dresner arrived at Maine in 2018 as the wide receivers coach. As offensive coordinator, he has overseen the development of quarterbacks Joe Fagnano and Derek Robertson, who both played this year to help Maine to a 6-5 record. Robertson went 4-3 as a starter after Fagnano was injured in the second game of the season. Fagnano returned to lead Maine to wins over FBS foe Massachusetts and rival New Hampshire in the final two games.

Maine has already lost two players, including standout wide receiver Devin Young, to the transfer portal. Dresner said he and Fagnano, who will be a senior with two years of eligibility remaining, have already spoken about the future.

“I think Joe and I have a very good relationship, like I do with every player,” said Dresner. “He and I are on the same page on what we’d like to see here moving forward.”

Dresner began his coaching career in 2010 at Union College and was the offensive coordinator in his final season there. He spent 2012 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, then the next three years at Merrimack as the pass game coordinator/recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2017, he was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Pace University.

Charlton, who had a 14-13 record in his three seasons at Maine, released a statement Wednesday through the Maine football Twitter account in which he thanked the fans for the support he and his family received in the seven years he spent in Orono.

“Professionally I have cherished my first day as a position coach to my last day as head coach,” he said. “Personally Maria and I have been fortunate to raise three children in a state we’ll always call home. We have accomplished so much, from winning championships, to bringing the musket back to Orono, but it will always be the people that make this place special. We break every meeting, practice, or game down with Family, and that is exactly what UMaine is. Black Bear Nation is a family and always will be.”

Ralph said, “I don’t think Nick gets the credit he deserves for guiding the program in the time he was here. He left the program in good shape. He dealt with COVID, some key injuries and personnel defections. Nick found a way to make it work. He’s a good coach and UConn will not be his last stop.”

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