Walt Bell Out at UMass: A Look at Potential Replacements

by Connor Jackson

Photo credit: Thom Kendall/Massachusetts athletics

After sporting a 2-23 record in three years at Massachusetts, Walt Bell is out as head coach. A 35-22 loss to FCS Rhode Island was enough for the Minutemen to ultimately move on from Bell.

UMass was Bell’s first head coaching job. He previously served as Willie Taggart’s offensive coordinator at Florida State in 2018.

Whoever the next coach will be at UMass will take over a roster that has won two games in three seasons.

Examining the Job

Like Akron, UMass is considered one of the worst jobs in America.

Since joining the FBS in 2012, winning has been rare in Amherst. In fact, the Minutemen have only won more than three games in a season twice since joining the FBS. When you have a program that ranks towards the bottom of the country in attendance, has a lower payroll, is not located in a recruiting hotbed, and has become accustomed to losing, you have one of the toughest places to coach in the nation.

There is a history of winning at UMass before the FBS, believe it or not. The Minutemen have won 22 non-FBS conference titles and claimed the 1998 FCS national championship.

Unfortunately, that success never translated to the FBS level. Hopefully for UMass, the next coach can start to turn the tide.

Coaching Candidates

Kentucky OC Liam Coen

If Coen would be willing to take the UMass job, it would be foolish for the Minutemen to look elsewhere.

Currently the offensive coordinator at Kentucky, Coen has completely transformed an offense based on the run game into a balanced attack. He has been a major catalyst in the improvement from Kentucky this year compared to the last.

Prior to that, Coen was on Sean McVay’s staff with the Los Angeles Rams from 2018 to 2020.

So, what would draw him to UMass? Well, Coen actually played quarterback for the Minutemen in the 2000s, where he is one of the best in program history. On top of that, he spent two years as the program’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015.

Hiring a guy with SEC and NFL experience would be huge for a program like UMass, especially when that guy is a former player and coach at the same school. One has to wonder whether UMass has the financial flexibility to make this hire.

If it does, would Coen be interested? We will see, but he should be at the top of the hot board for the Minutemen.

Miami Assistant Bob Shoop

Speaking of SEC experience, Bob Shoop is another name that could be one to watch.

Shoop, currently an analyst on Manny Diaz’s staff at Miami, has numerous years of experience in the SEC. The Yale graduate has been on staff at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Mississippi State as defensive coordinator.

Shoop’s only experience as a head coach dates back to 2005, where he compiled a 7-23 record in three seasons at Columbia. In defense of the record, it was more than a decade ago, and it was toward the beginning of his career.

Shoop spent one year on staff at UMass in 2006, so he has some familiarity with Amherst.

Here is another coach with ties to UMass and the SEC, except this one is a little more financially doable.

Minnesota Co-DC Joe Harasymiak

Harasymiak is just 35 years old, but he has had plenty of success as a head coach.

The New Jersey native led Maine from 2016 to 2018. Before that, he was an assistant on the Maine staff dating back to 2011. In his final year at Maine, the Black Bears won 10 games and advanced all the way to the FCS semifinals. His efforts eventually landed him on P.J. Fleck’s staff at Minnesota, where he currently shares defensive coordinator duties.

Harasymiak is a young coach with ties to the New England area. If UMass wants to go that route, he fits the mold.

Maine HC Nick Charlton

Since we mentioned Harasymiak, we have to mention his successor. Nick Charlton is the youngest head coach in college football, and he is in his third year as the head coach at Maine.

Thus far, Charlton is 9-11 at Maine, but sported a .500 finish in each of his first two seasons.┬áIn 2020, the Black Bears finished third in the North division of the Colonial Athletic Association. As Maine’s offensive coordinator, the Bears advanced all the way to the FCS semifinals in 2018.

More importantly, Charlton is a Massachusetts native. After graduating from Boston College in 2011, he quickly entered the coaching world where he became a graduate assistant for the Eagles.

Charlton is another young head coach with connections to the state.

Holy Cross HC Bob Chesney

At just 44 years old, Chesney has arguably been one of the most successful college football coaches in Massachusetts.

Chesney has spent 12 years as a head coach. Nine of them have come in the state of Massachusetts at Assumption and now at Holy Cross. How has he fared? Well, he has an 89-40 career record and has five combined playoff appearances at the Division II and FCS levels.

This is a guy who has made his way up in the coaching world, and the next stop could be at at UMass. Would he be willing to leave the friendly confines of Holy Cross to take on a tough job at UMass?

It seems possible.

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