Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove watches a drill during a practice in August 2019. Cosgrove was the head football coach at the University of Maine for 23 years before eventually taking the Colby post. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Before Jack Cosgrove became the head football coach at Colby College in 2018, his name was synonymous with the University of Maine’s football program.

He was the head football coach there for 23 years, resigning after the 2015 season with a school-record 129 victories to take a job in administration. Overall, Cosgrove, who played quarterback for the Black Bears, spent 30 years in Orono as a football coach.

If anyone knows what it takes to be the head coach at Maine, it’s Cosgrove. And with the head coaching position open once again with Nick Charlton’s departure after three years to become the offensive coordinator at Connecticut, an FBS program with more scholarships and resources, Cosgrove said this is “an incredibly attractive job” for any candidate.

Neither Maine nor Connecticut have officially announced Charlton’s departure or hiring. But multiple media reports on Sunday said Charlton was leaving. And his office in Orono is empty.

Charlton’s departure has also set in motion player movement from Maine. Already wide receiver/kick returner Devin Young and kicker Vladimir Rivas have entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to a university official.

Cosgrove, now 65, has no interest himself in the position.”Very happy and fulfilled at Colby,” he said, noting the steady improvement in the program since he took over, including a 4-5 record this fall.

The opening at Maine is intriguing, said Cosgrove, because of the future. Last year, the Harold Alfond Foundation made a $90 million donation, spread over 10 years, to Maine to improve its athletic facilities, with Maine needing to raise another $20 million over those same 10 years.

In addition to addressing Title IX issues by building new softball, women’s soccer and field hockey stadiums, the money would help improve Alfond Stadium, home to the football team, and allow construction of a multi-sport facility, located at one end of the football field, that would provide a home court, and locker rooms, for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as a new locker room and coaches offices for the football team. It will also include a new strength and conditioning facility.

“What (the new coach) would have in front of him is the dollars of the Alfond Foundation,” said Cosgrove. “That’s a big-time exciting situation. It’s a couple of years away, but you would be on the ground floor of a new era.”

Cosgrove said Maine, located on the northern frontier of college football, needs a facility like that to recruit top athletes.

“It helps in recruiting and creates that ‘Wow’ factor,” said Cosgrove. “You get a young man or woman on campus and they see that facility and they go, ‘Wow.’ The closest thing I ever came to that was in 1998 when they put Astroturf on Alfond Stadium. We shared the field with the field hockey team then. That was a big deal.”

This will be the third head coach for Maine football since Cosgrove left six years ago. Joe Harasymiak, who was Cosgrove’s choice to replace him, left after the 2018 season – and an appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals –  to become an assistant coach at Minnesota. He had a 20-15 record at Maine.

Now Charlton leaves after three seasons and a 14-13 record.

“The landscape of college football has changed,” said Cosgrove. “You want to make sure you get the right guy for as long as you can keep him. I don’t think you’ll see guys staying a long time like I did.”

Cosgrove said Maine needed to pay its football coaches more. “That’s something that has to be changed because aspirations are going to be raised once they build that building,” he said.

Cosgrove made $187,000 his final year at Maine. Both Harasymiak and Charlton made $153,000 at Maine, the lowest head coach salaries in the Colonial Athletic Association.

They were both rewarded with higher salaries after Maine. This year, Harasymiak, now the co-defensive coordinator at Minnesota, made slightly over $410,000. While Charlton’s salary at UConn has not been released, the last offensive coordinator at Connecticut made over $300,000.

The early signing period for NCAA Division I football is Dec. 15-17. Cosgrove said that shouldn’t force Maine officials to rush into anything.

“There’s always a buzz about those dates,” said Cosgrove. “But I’ve always said that there’s plenty of good football players out there, you’ve just got to find them. I was proud of us at Maine for finding guys no one else wanted. Look at Pat Ricard (now with the Baltimore Ravens), Matt Mulligan (a nine-year NFL career), Mike DeVito (a nine-year NFL career), Trevor Bates (Super Bowl champion with the Patriots). These are guys we found that no one else wanted.”

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