BANGOR, Maine — Jonathan “Gabby” Price has officially returned to coach the Husson University football team and one of the many endorsements he received was from the man he is replacing, Sean Murphy.
He called Price’s hiring “outstanding.”
“The program is heading in the right direction and there’s no other guy for this job right now than Gabby. He’s the perfect guy. I know unequivocally he will do everything he can in the best interest of the university and the program,” said Murphy, who stepped down after two seasons to become the school’s men’s lacrosse coach.
Murphy will also continue in his role as an assistant athletic director.
“Gabby is a great coach and an even better person. There were some other candidates but there was no other person for the job. He loves his family, he loves football, he loves the student-athletes, he loves the school and he loves the community. You won’t find anyone better than Gabby Price,” said Husson athletic director Bob Reasso. “He will continue the rebuilding process and I feel very confident that we will be competing for a conference championship in the next couple of years. You can never guarantee that you’ll win it, but I can guarantee that we’ll compete for it.”
The terms of Price’s contract were not disclosed, but Price is also a successful businessman. He owns the Taco Stand in Brewer and the Corner Store in Bangor and co-owns the Ground Round and Pepino’s restaurants in Bangor.
The 63-year-old Price was on the ground floor when Husson re-instituted its football program in 2002. The Eagles began playing in 2003 and, in six years, Price guided them to a 25-28 record that included a 19-10 mark over his final three years.
He resigned after piloting the Eagles to a 7-3 record and a berth in the ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl in 2008.
Price had 114 players on his roster in 2008, but that number shrunk significantly after he left.
Niles Nelson replaced him and went 5-14 in his two seasons, including 1-9 in his second year, before he was fired and Murphy took over.
Murphy went 2-8 (1-6 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference) this past fall after going 0-10 (0-7) the previous year.
There were 61 players on this year’s roster, including 46 freshmen and sophomores. Thirty-six players were from Maine.
“I’m excited to be back,” said Price at a press conference at the D. Bruce MacGregor Sports Hall of Fame Room in the Newman Gymnasium on Tuesday afternoon.
Price thanked Husson President Bob Clark and Reasso for their support and praised them for their professionalism.
He said Husson has continued to improve its facilities under the direction of Clark and Reasso.
“They’ve done a terrific job. When I first got here, I had to call an operator to make a long distance call,” quipped Price.
He also lauded Murphy’s efforts.
“Sean did a very good job. I watched them four or five times this season and they always played very hard. They had a lot of pride and did some very good things. They have some very good players coming back. I’m looking forward to meeting them,” said Price.
He said his first order of duty will be to meet the players and build a relationship with them.
“And you have to recruit, so right after that I’ll be recruiting,” said Price, who intends to recruit 90 percent of his players from the state.
“We’ll go anywhere for recruits, but Maine will be our primary focus,” said Price. “You can never have enough Maine players. We’re a Maine school. But we’ll also sprinkle in players from other places.”
Price said the ultimate goal will be to win the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference title and earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament but he noted that it will be a challenge.
“It won’t be easy because the league is much better now. They have new facilities at Castleton State, Mount Ida and Anna Maria and a lot of schools are putting money into their programs. They see the benefits of Division III football. It’s a very good league in that respect,” said Price, who is a fiery motivator and excellent communicator who cares for his players.
He intends to build a team with players who “play hard, feel good about each other and want to make a contribution to the campus. It is such a dynamite age group [18-22]. We want them to continue to trust in each other, build confidence and get better every day.”
Prior to taking the Husson job in 2002, Price guided the Bangor High School Rams to a 129-52-1 record during two different stints. His Bangor football teams made the playoffs 15 times in 18 years and played in six state Class A title games, winning two (1979 and ’81).
The former three-sport star at Bangor High and fullback at the University of Maine said he hopes to name his staff shortly after an evaluation period.
The players are excited about the appointment.
“I remember when I was in high school and I would come to a Husson game and the whole sideline from the 25[-yard line] to the 25 was lined up with Husson players,” said junior wide receiver Devin Sherman of Benton and Lawrence High School of Fairfield.
“That was the direct result of him being a good recruiter and being able to relate to kids,” added Sherman. “He got players to want to come here. It’s great to have him here. I’ve heard about how good a coach he is.”
“I love it,” said freshman tight end-tailback Josiah Hartley of Bangor. “He coached my dad and his friends. I’m excited. He’s a great person.”
“He made Husson a better place,” said sophomore guard-center Alex Martin-Wallace of South Portland. “He brought in a lot of good players and turned boys into men through football. He has great relationships with his players. It’s going to be a great thing.”