A longing for home and an opportunity to be closer to family and friends prompted Alphonso Belnavis to return to the Bates College football team as an assistant coach.

The Edward Little High School and Husson University graduate will be coaching defensive backs and working with special teams.

Edward Little graduate Alphonso Belnavis joined the Bates College football coaching staff earlier this year. It’s his second stint with the Bobcats — he also was an assistant in 2019 before spending two years at Amherst. Submitted photo

“The biggest reason is I just wanted to be home, really,” he said. “Home for me isn’t just Bates. It is just being in Maine. Bates offered that opportunity that I could have that balance — family, football, life in general.”

“One of the (other) biggest things was I think the relationships I had established when I was here, but also after talking with (new Bates head coach) Matt Coyne and talking about kind of the direction he saw this program going and how excited he was (about the program).”

Belnavis had a successful high school career at Edward Little, serving as a team captain his senior year and also playing in the Lobster Bowl and being named a Class A Pine Tree All-Conference wide receiver and Schmidlin Trophy Finalist in 2012.

He previously worked at Bates in 2019 as the Bobcats’ first coach dedicated to quality control. He was also the assistant receivers coach and served as the director of football operations.


He wasn’t sure if he was ready to leave Amherst College after spending the past two years there as a defensive assistant.

“At first, I am at Amherst thinking, ‘I am not entertaining going anywhere else at this moment … but Matt was just so, like, not even persuasive, he was just so like authentic,” Belnavis said. “I was really excited about the opportunity to come back.”

Alphonso Belnavis is the defensive backs coach for the Bates College football team. Theophil Syslo/Bates College photo

Coyne knew of Belnavis from coaching within the league and reached out after he was hired to lead the Bobcats in February. Coyne said he was also aware of Belnavis’ work ethic, “and what he has done in his relationship to the Lewiston area was big factor for me as well.”

Coyne said Belnavis’ work with specials teams, recruiting and his familiarity with NESCAC is a big plus for the new era of Bates football.

“The big thing for me, as you can tell from how I constructed the staff, was the age of our staff,” he said. “I think it is very important in the current climate to have coaches that are relatable to these student-athletes that we are recruiting. (Belnavis) adds a lot a value in multiple departments. 

“That has proved evident in his three months here. He is just a tremendous human being as well. He is on top of it.”


Belnavis said his responsibilities will be different in his second time around with the Bobcats, this time coaching the safeties and corners and helping with special teams.

Belnavis played cornerback for four years at Husson, so he’s familiar with the position. He also coached defensive backs, along with wide receivers, when was an assistant at Poland Regional High School.

He also has familiarity with his fellow coaches on the Bobcats’ new staff, having worked alongside offensive coordinator, Mitchell Thompson, and wide receivers coach, James Mayden, at Amherst.

“What I am really looking forward to is being around, like, just really good coaches,” Belnavis said. “I am really looking forward to the relationships with the coaches and with the relationships with the players, too. 

“A lot of the kids that are coming back for their final year, I was here when they were younger in the program. I was younger in the program as well — just watching films, doing scout cards, sort of helping out coaches in the recruiting — whereas, now, I have grown within the program … We are kind of meeting at the end of the tunnel.”

Belnavis is content with returning to Maine and taking on new responsibilities at Bates.

“I just value time with my family and the relationships with my friends, locally,” he said. “I never felt in one way that I think like, ‘I was here and then I was coming back in the same situation’ — whole new coaches, whole new atmosphere. I still feel like I gained something out this experience. I feel like this is a great experience to learn and be around some great people.”

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