Spencer Emerson is leaving Georgetown University after two seasons as the running backs coach to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Chicago.

Spencer Emerson, who grew up in Lewiston and Auburn and coached the Poland Regional High School football team for two seasons, has been hired as offensive coordinator at the University of Chicago. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

Emerson, an Auburn native, has taken a winding road to his first college football coordinator job.

He started as an undergraduate assistant, became a high school assistant at Old Town and Lewiston and served a couple of stints as a Bates College assistant. In 2018 he was hired as the head coach at Poland Regional High School, and led the Knights for two seasons before being hired by Georgetown in 2020.

Along the way, he has made connections and learned a lot from other coaches, including former Lewiston head coach and longtime Bates assistant Skip Capone and Jack Cosgrove, the former UMaine head coach who currently leads the Colby College program.

Emerson is excited for the chance to showcase what he has learned. 


“I think I am ready,” Emerson, who grew up in Auburn and Lewiston and played high school football at Edward Little and Lewiston, said. “My journey has been interesting. When I go to an interview room or go to a clinic, I don’t have the usual, ‘Yeah, I played for this many years.’ I was an assistant at Old Town High School, at Lewiston High School, head coach at Poland, then worked at Bates, and some people don’t even know what Bates is.

“It’s very different, but I have been really fortunate to be exposed to a network of people like Skip Capone, Jack Cosgrove, all the way up to Rob Sgarlata, the head coach at Georgetown, and I’ve learned from the best. I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned from them and modify it to my ‘modern style.’”

Emerson used his connection to Chicago head coach Todd Gilchrist to get an interview for the job. 

“This winter Todd Gilchrist was hired, and he was a WR coach at Holy Cross, who (Georgetown) played against,” Emerson said. “I congratulated him on the hire, but then I saw the opening and reached back out and asked about it. He told me to apply, and it worked out. It happened really naturally.”

After working with the running backs at Georgetown for two seasons, Emerson is excited to branch out and take control of the entire offense at Chicago, an NCAA Division III program. Emerson said he had offers from larger Division I schools but decided that he wanted the opportunity to be an offensive coordinator.

It’s the type of job he’s been preparing for, in a way, since before he was even in high school.


“I was joking with a friend of mine that I’ve been creating my ‘playbook’ since I was 12 years old,” Emerson said. “Chalkboards, all that stuff. I feel like I am ready for it. Being a head coach in high school, an assistant at the Division III level, an assistant at the Division I level, I have seen it from all angles. I feel like I know how to approach the job, how to treat the assistants under me, how to hear their suggestions, and even if it’s not something we will do, giving them feedback and helping out. I want to align what I want to do with the vision of the head coach.”

Emerson plans to run a spread offense at Chicago. The Maroons, members of the Midwest Conference since 2017, went 8-2 last season and return Associated Press All-America running back Nicholas D’Ambrose. 

“My philosophy offensively has always been to play at a high tempo,” Emerson said. “Since I was young I liked the idea of playing fast and putting pressure on the defense. Really wide formations, wide splits, motions and movements to make them adjust. It’s going to be a lot of ’11’ personnel (one tight end and one running back). And from a scheme perspective, tell me who my players are and I’ll tell you the scheme — if you have Tom Brady or Lamar Jackson at quarterback, those are two different offenses.

“I gotta get into the crux of the film. We have an All-American running back coming back, so we will be aggressive and creative in how we run the ball. We have a lot of talent coming back from that 8-2 team, as well as new freshmen. How fast, how athletic and determining how fast we can go.”

After traveling back and forth from New England and Chicago, Emerson will be back in Chicago to officially start the new job Tuesday.

He’s looking forward to working with the returning athletes and the incoming freshman. He’s also excited about hitting the recruiting trail in the Northeast to search for players who reach the athletic and academic standards of the University of Chicago. 

“The University of Chicago is a high-academic school, just like Bates and Georgetown, and I just think it’s a much different recruiting process than a state school with not as strict admission standards,” Emerson said. “I think being at a school where I am telling kids about a degree and what it can do for them, I think that’s really, really impactful. Just getting a kid that really wants to be challenged on and off the field gets you a kid that has good time management skills.

“The thing about this job is it’s not a job that you need to take and rebuild, it’s a maintain and improve. Chicago, across the board, all programs have been successful. Also, working for Todd, we are on the same page on how to treat a football program.”

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