UMass announces Don Brown as next football coach

  • Arizona defensive coordinator Don Brown will be the next UMass football head coach. AP FILE

Staff Report
Monday, November 29, 2021

The UMass football program is set to make Don Brown its newest head coach… again. The school announced the hiring officially Monday.

Brown was the UMass head coach from 2004-08 when it participated at the FCS level and guided the program to its winningest five-year stretch in history. The school fired Walt Bell after two-plus seasons earlier this month following a loss to FCS Rhode Island. Bell was just 2-23 during his tenure in Amherst. Alex Miller was named the interim coach, and UMass is 0-2 with losses to Maine and Army since Bell was let go.

“I am honored to return to Amherst and lead the football program at the University of Massachusetts again,” Brown said in a release. “I promise to work tirelessly to make this program into something that our players, alumni and fans can be proud of. My focus will also be to develop our student-athletes so they can play at an elite level and achieve success, which requires building great relationships and having a tremendous work ethic. I can't wait to get back to the Commonwealth and get to work.”

Brown is currently in his first season as the defensive coordinator at the University of Arizona, where he’s making $1.7 million for the 2021 season. About $700,000 of that salary is being paid by Brown’s former employer, the University of Michigan, according to Arizona Desert Swarm, though his salary was expected to settle at $800,000 for next season.

Yahoo Sports reporter Pete Thamel tweeted Sunday night that Brown was expected to coach in Arizona’s rivalry game against Arizona State on Saturday. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, a UMass alum, also reported the news of Brown’s expected hiring on Sunday night.

Brown grew up in Spencer and attended David Prouty High School. Despite moving on from Massachusetts, he still has family in the Bay State, including children and grandchildren in Western Mass.

He left UMass after the 2008 season to become the defensive coordinator at Maryland, a position he later held at UConn, Boston College and Michigan before being fired by Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor last December after five seasons. He landed in Arizona under new coach Jedd Fisch, though the Wildcats are just 1-10 this season following Friday’s 44-18 loss to Washington State. Saturday’s game against Arizona State is the season finale, and Fisch confirmed on Monday that Brown would coach the defense in that game before leaving for Amherst.

“I know that's a very important thing for him, to be able to have a chance again to be a head coach,” said Fisch of Brown. “To be able to be by his 11 grandchildren that he has, all of his four children, I believe, are in Massachusetts. His wife is living out there. I think it's a great opportunity for him to head back home.

“Just to be clear, our athletic department was incredible in terms of both financially supporting an opportunity for Coach Brown to stay here, as well as every other facet of having him stay here but sometimes family and longevity in the Massachusetts area wins out,” he continued. “And I think for him, the chance to be a head coach again and for him to be by his family were hands down the two most important things.”

In five seasons as UMass head coach, Brown posted a 43-19 record, and led the Minutemen to the 2006 FCS championship game where they lost to Appalachian State.

“I am very pleased that we are able to bring Don and his family back to UMass. Coach Brown's remarkable coaching expertise and familiarity with our program and the Northeast makes this a perfect fit," UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said. “Don is a phenomenal recruiter, talent developer and connector. We will benefit from his football acumen, strong leadership qualities and his fierce intensity and desire to build our growing FBS program into a perennial winner.”

UMass closes the season Saturday at New Mexico State.