ORONO, Maine — University of Maine head football coach Joe Harasymiak has been named a finalist for the 32nd STATS Football Championship Subdivision Eddie Robinson Award, which honors the national coach of the year.
In addition, UMaine senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield was named one of 25 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the best defensive player in the FCS ranks.
Harasymiak, in his third year at the helm of the Black Bears, guided UMaine to its first outright Colonial Athletic Association championship since 2013. After being selected eighth in the CAA preseason poll, posted an 8-3 overall record and 7-1 league record. Both win totals were UMaine’s most since 2013.
Along the way, the Ridgewood, New Jersey, native led UMaine to a 5-0 record over ranked opponents and the Black Bears’ third-ever Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) win, a 31-28 victory at Western Kentucky.
“It is extremely humbling to be in the same conversation as all of these great coaches,” said Harasymiak, the only coach from the CAA in the field. “The only reason this happened is because of the great coaches and players I get to be around every day.”
UMaine earned the No. 7 seed in the upcoming NCAA FCS Playoffs and received a first-round bye before hosting the winner of Jacksonville State and East Tennessee on Dec. 1 at noon at Alfond Stadium.
“Joe has done a great job,” said James Madison coach Mike Houston. “I told him after we played him up there in 2016 that he had the right formula and to stick to his guns. They play a brand of football you can use to win at Maine. They are very talented on the defensive side of the ball, they have a big, strong offensive line and (Chris) Ferguson gives them a steadying factor at quarterback.”
“He deserves the recognition. He has done a fantastic job,” said Towson coach Rob Ambrose.
The 6-foot, 240-pound Sheffield is UMaine’s second-leading tackler with 69 and leads the team in sacks with 8.5. He is second in tackles for a loss (13.5). He has also forced two fumbles, recovered two and made an interception.
Sheffield, a native of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, 0.77 sacks per game average ranks second in the CAA and his 1.23 TFLs per game tie him for fourth in the conference.
“He has been a playmaker all year for us,” said Harasymiak.
The awards will be presented at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas, the site of the national championship game.
The other awards are the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), the Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year) and the Doris Robinson FCS Scholar-Athlete of the Year.