Husson fires football coach Nelson

Posted Nov. 08, 2010, at 6:52 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 08, 2010, at 8:02 p.m.

Niles Nelson will not be back as the Husson University football coach next season.

Nelson confirmed on Monday that he has been fired after two seasons at the helm.

The Eagles of Bangor went 1-9 this past season after going 4-5 a year ago.

“When you feel like they don’t want you, it’s disappointing,” said the 72-year-old Nelson, who spent five years as Husson’s defensive coordinator before taking over for seven-year head coach Gabby Price after Price resigned in July, 2009. “At the same time, I have faith in God. My faith has sustained me through most things. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. It is what it is.”

The Eagles got off to a tough start this fall, losing to powerhouses Otterbein, Springfield and Salisbury by a cumulative score of 173-7.

Those three teams have combined for an 18-8 record this fall.

The Eagles then went 1-6 in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference play although four of those losses were by seven points or less.

Husson went 3-3 in the conference in 2009, losing its three games by a combined five points.

“I actually think I did one of the better coaching jobs I’ve ever done this year,” said Nelson. “The kids stayed together. We had a good group of young men. We had just six seniors but they provided good leadership. When I spoke to the players (on Saturday), I wished them well and told them to stick with it and see what they could do.”

Husson athletic director Bob Reasso would not confirm that Nelson had been fired but said, “We will have a major announcement about our football program at a press conference on Wednesday.”

Nelson said there were a number of factors behind the two-year record

“We had a number of kids (returnees and incoming freshmen) who didn’t show for a variety of reasons. Some weren’t eligible (academically), some didn’t get enough financial aid, some transferred and others couldn’t find a place to stay on campus,” said Nelson. “We lost around 35-40 kids that we expected to have.”

That not only cost him potential starters but it depleted team depth.

“Having a young team was a big factor but we also sustained some key injuries in the areas where we were the thinnest (depth-wise),” said Nelson, referring primarily to both lines.

Nelson was a former football captain and All-Yankee Conference player at the University of Maine and earned a doctorate’s degree at Florida State University where he served as a graduate assistant coach.

He eventually became the head football coach at Millis (Mass.) High and transformed a 1-8 team into one that went 18-1 and claimed a state championship in his last two years.

He returned to Orono to become the head coach at Orono High School and led the Red Riots to three consecutive undefeated seasons and state championships. Orono strung together a 38-game winning streak.

He then went on to become the head coach at Bangor High before serving as the offensive coordinator at the University of Rhode Island for three years. He also coached at Nichols College (Mass.) before retiring in 2000 and moving to South Carolina.

He came out of retirement to coach at The Citadel (S.C.) and Methodist College (N.C.) before coming to Husson as an assistant coach under Price.

Nelson and wife Ronnie have four children and 13 grandchildren and have a home in South Carolina and a camp in Bucksport.

“I’m going to take some time off and re-assess the situation,” he said. “I’m going to spend some time with my wife, children and grandchildren. I’ve had one day off since August. Then I’ll see how I feel in a month or two.

“I’ve been blessed (health-wise).  One of the things that has helped me is I’ve stayed active. When you’re coaching, you stay active. I want to stay active somewhere,” he added.

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