- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

The new football coach at the University of Maine is the youngest in Division I. But Joe Harasymiak is too busy recruiting to spend much time musing about his success at a young age.

After winning the job Wednesday, the 29-year-old took an early flight to Washington, D.C., where he’s been on the recruiting trail in the Middle Atlantic states.

He said he does his best at every job - and the rest takes care of itself.

“I haven’t thought about my age. I’ve done a good a good job with opportunities that I’ve had at Maine, and I’m ready to take the next step,” he said.

As UMaine’s defensive coordinator in Orono, he built a stingy defense that ranked in the top three in the Colonial Athletic Association and top 20 nationally.

Athletic Director Karlton Creech said he chose the best candidate regardless of age. He said it’s not unusual for schools in the Football Championship Subdivision, the second-tier of Division I schools, to have younger coaches because of the lower pay scale compared to the top Division I football powerhouses. Harasymiak’s four-year contract calls for an annual salary of $150,000, a fraction of what coaches at Alabama and Notre Dame make.

“We can’t afford to attract a sitting head coach from another school, so we have to look at that next young talent to help us,” Creech said.

UMaine has had success with young coaches: Joanne McCallie, the women’s basketball coach at Duke, was in her 20s when she took her first head coaching job at UMaine. And the late hockey coach Shawn Walsh, who won two national championships at UMaine, started there as an assistant in his 20s.

Harasymiak was a true youngster - about 7 years old - when outgoing Jack Cosgrove first became head coach on the Orono campus. Cosgrove stepped down in November after a 23-year run in which his teams won three conference championships and made five NCAA postseason appearances.

Harasymiak is inheriting a team that finished 3-8. He said his first priority is to erase doubt about the team’s future, build players’ confidence and win support from fans.

Harasymiak said he likes the blue collar work ethic built by Cosgrove. But he said he’s also going to give more looks: multiple formations, trick plays, jet sweeps.

“We are going to be an exciting program to watch, because we’re going to operate that way. That comes with being young and enthusiastic. We’re willing to step outside the box and try some things. We want to challenge defenses to defend the whole field,” he said.

Najee Goode, a defensive back, said Harasymiak carries with him a young man’s swagger that allows him to connect with players and makes him seem at home running up and down the sidelines during games. But he said the coach also spends long hours studying game tapes and reviewing strategy.

“He’s going to beat you with his brain,” Goode said. “He really loves the game of football. He really knows the game at a deep level.”

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