The Husson University football program will enter a new era next fall as it joins the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
The Eagles will do so with a new head coach.
Gabby Price has stepped down from that position after 12 seasons, the school announced Tuesday.
“I am honored to have had the job and have appreciated every minute that I have had working with so many outstanding people,” said Price in a release.
The 69-year-old Price, who prior to building the Husson program was a longtime coach at Bangor High School, led the Eagles to 10 winning seasons, five Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championships and NCAA Division III tournament appearances in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Price also guided Husson to ECAC bowl game appearances in 2008 and 2015.
“Gabby’s been a great guy to work with,” said Husson athletic director Frank Pergolizzi. “It’s like you knew this day was coming at some point in time. It’s definitely sad to see him go but at the same time we’re thankful for all that he did for Husson University and [are] wishing him the very best.”
Pergolizzi said that Nat Clark, who has served for all 12 years as Price’s assistant head coach, with the Eagles, has been named the team’s interim head coach.
Price first coached at Husson from 2002 to 2008, then returned from 2013 through 2018. He compiled a 72-45 career record with the Eagles, and leaves the program as the career leader among ECFC coaches based on winning percentage.
He was named ECFC Coach of the Year in 2018 for the third straight season and for the fourth time overall. He also named New England DII/DIII Coach of the Year in 2017.
“I love coaching because of the players (now) playing and those who have played,” he said. “I am and have been proud of our players in so many ways. They have won some games and also been great to each other.
“Everyone has a story and many of our players have had an incredible journey in so many different directions. The greatest teachers in my life have been our players and for that I love them and will always be indebted to them.”
Seventy-eight players earned all-conference recognition under Price’s leadership with 11 receiving a major conference award. Since returning to Husson in 2013, Price has coached 15 All-American players and had 61 student-athletes earn a spot on the ECFC All-Academic Team.
“Gabby has a unique ability to build relationships with kids, some of whom come from very different backgrounds than he did,” said Pergolizzi. “I hate to use the word ‘love’ casually, but he loved those guys and they loved him.
“It was an amazing thing to watch at times, the relationships he had with his players.”
Price played football, basketball and baseball at Bangor High School, where he was named the school’s athlete of the year as a senior. He then played postgraduate football in 1968 at Bridgton Academy, and was inducted into that school’s hall of fame in 2006.
Price spent the 1969 season as a quarterback and defensive back at Rutgers University before transferring to the University of Maine. He played fullback for the Black Bears and lettered in 1970 and 1971 before earning a B.S. in education in 1973.
Price spent 12 years teaching in the Bangor school system before retiring in 1985, and since then he has continued to own and operate several Bangor businesses.
Price served as head football coach at Bangor from 1976 to 1984 and from 1992 to 2000, guiding the Rams to an overall record of 129-52-1. His teams qualified for postseason play 15 times in 18 years with Class A state championships in 1979 and 1981 and four other state-game appearances.
Price was named head coach at Husson for the first time when the school re-instituted its football program in 2002. The Eagles began varsity play a year later and in six years Price guided them to a 25-28 record, including a 19-10 mark over his final three seasons.
He resigned after the 2008 season when he led Husson to a 7-3 record and a berth in the ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl.
Since returning to the program in 2013, Price and the Eagles were 47-17 with four NCAA tournament appearances and a 2015 trip to the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl.
After their first 10-win season in 2017, the Eagles finished 8-3 last fall.
Husson moves next fall from the ECFC to the Commonwealth Coast Conference and joins Becker College, Curry College, the University of New England, Endicott College, Nichols College, Salve Regina and Western New England University.
Pergolizzi hopes to fill the vacancy left by Price quickly.
“This is the time of year when young men and their families typically come and visit campus,” he said. “Being able to know who the head coach is, is a pretty important part of the recruiting process so we’re going to move as quickly as we can and at the same time try to be thorough.”
Among the potential in-house candidates for the permanent position are the team’s three full-time assistants: Clark, who also has served most recently as special teams coordinator and offensive line coach; defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Grant Caserta; and offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Dan Brainard.
“We have three assistant coaches here we think are very talented,” said Pergolizzi, “so we might have the answer already here or we might have to look someplace else for it.”