Shocker: Eric Hamilton retires a month before practice starts, as the Lions ready for the 2013 season

By Anthony Caruso III
The Capital Sports Report
Owner/Managing Editor/Sr. Writer

For the first time in nearly 40 years, The College of New Jersey is looking for a new head football coach.

Eric Hamilton

Eric Hamilton

This morning, the college announced that Eric Hamilton has retired from his duties of being the head football coach. He was the head football coach for the college over the past 37 years.

“For over 35 years, football has been the focus of my professional life,” Hamilton said. “This fall, however, I will not be on the sidelines. I am extraordinarily grateful to all those who have played for me throughout the years and the loyal and dedicated coaches I was fortunate to have on my staff along with the alumni who have been the heart and soul of our football family. I am also appreciative of the many colleagues who have supported me and our program during my tenure, and my loving family for being the wind beneath my wings.”

An immediate search has begun to find an interim replacement, as his retirement leaves the college in a tough position. Practices for the upcoming season are less than a month away from starting.

Back in April, it was reported that Hamilton was facing a two game suspension without pay for the start of the 2013 season. Now, he will not serve that suspension.

He was suspended after a verbal altercation, along with his son, Matthew, who was the college’s Defensive Coordinator, with Kean security guards after the homecoming game in October at Lions Stadium. In that game, the Lions lost 34-30.

Matthew Hamilton was not rehired by the college after the season.

Coach Hamilton’s last win with the program came on November 3, 2012. The Lions won 14-0 against SUNY-Morrisville on the road that day.

Last season, the team finished with a 4-6 record. Only one of those wins came at home, as the Lions defeated William Paterson, 35-24, on October 26, 2012.

In 2011, the team went 7-3, but missed the playoffs. The last team that Hamilton coached to the playoffs was the 2007 team that went 9-3 overall and made the playoffs.

The Lions defeated RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), 17-14, in the Division III First Round that year. Then, they traveled to Alliance, Ohio to face Mount Union College, before falling 59-7.

He had 212 wins as the Lions head coach. His overall record with the Lions was 212-144-6, and had 22 winning seasons – only 2007 and 2011 were winning seasons in recent years.

In the 37 years at the helm, the Lions went to seven postseason appearances, including the ECAC and the Division III championship tournament. As mentioned earlier, the last postseason appearance came in 2007 – nearly a decade ago.

In October 2010, he received his 200th coaching win. At that time, he was just the 12th Division III head coach to reach that mark.

“Eric has been the face of our football program for nearly four decades,” noted John Castaldo, director of athletics and recreation at the College. “His coaching achievements rank amongst the best in the history of Division III football, but even more important, he has positively influenced the lives of so many young men. I wish him the very best in his retirement.”

As the football program has to regroup without a leader and the shock goes away in the coming hours and days, the team has to regroup for its first game less than two months away. This will be the first time that TCNJ will have a new head coach since 1976.

On September 6, the Lions travel to Collegeville, PA to face Ursinus to kick off the 2013 campaign. Last year, the Lions lost 24-20 to Ursinus at Lions Stadium to start the 2012 season.

After the Ursinus game, the Lions have three straight home games, including two Friday night games, before heading on the road to Kean in early October.

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