Exclusive: Dickens wants to be TCNJ’s permanent football coach

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

This summer, long-time head football coach Eric Hamilton decided to step down. Once that happened, The College of New Jersey needed to rush to hire a new football coach.

Wayne Dickens would be hired on an interim basis in late July, just two weeks before practice started for the 2013 campaign. On Saturday, Dickens could have coached his final game at Lions Stadium.



“I love it here,” said Dickens. “I would like to be here long-term. We have made a lot of progress in the months that I’ve been here.”

The Lions are 4-4, and have two more games left in the season before the school will have to make a decision on his future. The Lions are on the road at William Paterson University next Saturday, then play on November 15th at Rowan University to close out the season.

“We will play hard in those two games,” said Dickens. “Those games give us an opportunity to get the offense going. Hopefully, [Chris] Spellman would help out our offense when we get him back.”

It is not clear when Spellman would return to the Lions after having a shoulder injury. But what is clear is that the Lions season will come to an end after the Rowan game, as they have no chance of making the postseason.

The last time the Lions made the NCAA Tournament was in 2007. The Lions were 9-3 that season, and defeated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, before losing to Division III powerhouse Mount Union in the second round in Ohio.

When Dickens was brought in, he was hired by former athletic director John Castaldo. Since that time, Castaldo has moved to the Alumni Affairs Department at the College.

With Castaldo moving to a new position, the school needed a new athletic director. In September, Gregory Pogue was named interim athletic director.

“I haven’t heard anything yet,” said Dickens. “I don’t know if Pogue or a committee, including Pogue, would make the final decision.”

Hamilton, a former graduate of then-Trenton State College, was the Lions head coach for 37-years. And Dickens, who is 62-years-old, jokes that he doesn’t have 37-years to give to the program and his time is now.

Dickens is the 10th head football coach in the Lions program since 1921, and there was no head coach for the program from 1942 through 1945, as there was no football team. He said that he signed a 10-month contract, and has a one-year lease on his apartment.

But, as Dickens knows, with college coaches, things can change quickly. He did not have his contract renewed after four seasons at Kentucky State University, and once that happened, he was a free agent coach. Then, when the Lions position opened up, he applied with his 40-years experience, and was hired.

College coaches are normally hired and fired in December and January following the season. And that’s when Dickens expects to hear something from the administration.

“I have been through this before many times in my career,” said Dickens. “I have a lease and a contract through 2014, but if they decide after the season, that I wasn’t the right coach for the program moving forward, then I will cherish my time here with these kids, and move on to a new job elsewhere.”

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