Morris named UMass football coach

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

S.P. Sullivan/Collegian

Former University of Massachusetts star quarterback Liam Coen jokingly sent a text message to Kevin Morris on Jan. 19.

‘You should have gotten the job a couple of years earlier and then I really would have been able to light it up,” read Coen’s message to his former offensive coordinator.

Next season nobody knows which quarterback will be marching the offense down the field at McGuirk Stadium, but we now know which coach will roam the sidelines ‘- as Morris was officially as UMass head coach during a Jan. 19 press conference in Amherst.

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon elevated Morris, 44, to run the program from his position of offensive coordinator, where he served for five years under former head coach Don Brown ‘- who resigned to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Maryland on Jan. 9.

‘It’s a tremendous program and for the last five years my family and I have been extremely happy out here at the University of Massachusetts ‘hellip; and having the opportunity to lead the program is one that I’m excited about and we’re looking to further progress we’ve made over the past five years,’ Morris said at the press conference.

Morris’ contract runs for five years. Financial terms were not announced.

The search for Brown’s replacement began immediately after his departure, and included a list of 40 potential candidates which were reduced to nine that had formal interviews.

‘In the end analysis, I think we got an individual who knows UMass football, who’s familiar with the program, who will bring energy, new excitement, new ideas and a new vision for our program,’ McCutcheon said. ‘He’s going to represent the program with class and integrity.’

Prior to his five years at UMass, Morris spent four years in the same role serving under Brown at Northeastern from 2000-03. Morris got into coaching immediately after graduating from Williams College in 1986, joining the University of Albany coaching staff for two seasons.

He then moved on to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Div. III) for three years, Union College for two seasons and then back to WPI for six years as the head coach from 1993-98, cumulating a 24-32 record. Before joining Brown at Northeastern in 2000, he spent one season at Stony Brook as an offensive coordinator.

McCutcheon stressed the importance of sustaining continuity in the program, and the hiring of Morris should do just that, as much of Brown’s former staff are expected to remain on-board ‘- including defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski and Brian Picucci, who is expected to be elevated from offensive line and run-game coordinator to offensive coordinator.

Morris will no longer call the plays on offense, but will remain quarterbacks coach. A few spots will be open on the staff with the expected loss of defensive line and special teams coach Sean Spencer to Bowling Green, as well as the defensive backs coach position, which was under Brown’s control.

Over the past five seasons at UMass, Morris helped lead a consistently strong offensive attack, contributing to the winningest five-year span (43-19) in program history. In 2006 the Minutemen reached the Football Championship Series national championship game, losing to Appalachian State.

‘This isn’t a matter of just continuing on what Don Brown did, this was really hinged on Kevin’s vision and how he’s going to lead the program,’ McCutcheon said.

With Brown’s departure during a busy time in national recruiting, the UMass program was put under a difficult situation in terms of maintaining a strong recruiting class. But Morris is confident the coaching change won’t have any negative affects on recruiting.

‘The reactions were great, [the recruits are] very excited in keeping the continuity of the program. We’ve been selling UMass, and UMass attracts a good quality student-athlete,’ Morris said.

According to Morris one of those recruits (reportedly from a junior college) will be a quarterback ‘- who will be given every opportunity to compete for the starting job which is open for the first time in years with the graduation of Liam Coen, who, under Morris, is the school’s all-time leader in virtually every passing statistic.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]