Joe Harasymiak was considered a head coach on the rise this season at Maine, leading the Black Bears to the FCS semifinals for the first time. Now, he is heading to Minnesota and joining P.J. Fleck’s staff as a defensive assistant for the Gophers.
Harasymiak, 32, will fill a staff opening created when Fleck fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith and will join the Gophers before Wednesday’s Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
Joe Rossi took over as interim defensive coordinator for the final three games, and Fleck removed the interim label after a 37-15 victory over Wisconsin in the regular-season finale.
Rossi said Fleck will determine what title Harasymiak will have, but Harasymiak was a defensive assistant and coordinator for Maine before becoming the head coach in December 2015. Then 29, Harasymiak was the youngest head coach in Division I football.
Harasymiak had records of 6-5, 4-6 and 10-4 in his three seasons at Maine, capped by a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship and a playoff run that included a 23-18 upset of No. 2 seed Weber State on the road. The Black Bears’ season ended Saturday with a 50-19 semifinal loss at Eastern Washington.
The Gophers’ new assistant and Rossi briefly worked together at Maine.
Rossi was Maine’s defensive coordinator from 2009-11, and Harasymiak began as a restricted-earnings coach for the Black Bears in 2011.
“We had a full-time guy leave, and we promoted him [to defensive backs coach],’’ Rossi said Thursday. “… I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s an elite coach, an elite person — high energy, able to connect with the players. Just an impressive, impressive coach.’’
Harasymiak presumably will receive a pay increase with the Gophers. The Bangor (Maine) Daily News reported that he made $153,000 this season, the lowest salary for a head coach in the CAA. The average salary for CAA coaches, according to the report, was $360,000 this year. Salaries for Gophers assistants in 2018, according to USA Today’s database, ranged from $210,000 to $710,000.
Bowl prep going well
With the Quick Lane Bowl against Georgia Tech less than a week away, Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has been impressed with the team’s approach.
“Sometimes a team gets a little bored with the bowl practices, and it’s a little like pulling teeth at times,’’ Ciarrocca said. “But this team has not been that way at all. I said to Coach [Fleck] the other day, ‘Man, they’re ready to go again today.’ … This team has been really a joy to be around, with their energy and their commitment to getting better every day.’’
A full QB room
On Wednesday, the Gophers signed two quarterbacks to national letters of intent for their 2019 recruiting class, and Ciarrocca is eager to get to work with Jacob Clark of Rockwall, Texas, and Cole Kramer of Eden Prairie.
Like Fleck, Ciarrocca expects a healthy competition for the starting job next year, with Clark and Kramer joining sophomores-to-be Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad.
“It gives us depth and it creates more competition, which is what we want,’’ Ciarrocca said. “… The more competition, the better it is, as long as they continue to compete with each other, not against each other. I feel we’ve got the quarterback room headed in a really good direction right now with the guys we have and the two guys we’re adding.’’