July 20, 2013

TCNJ coach retires in face of suspension

More news about: TCNJ
Eric Hamilton won 212 games and took TCNJ to the playoffs five times.

Eric Hamilton walked on to Earl Dean Field in 1971 as a freshman playing for the Trenton State football team. Four decades later, he will bid a final farewell to the Lions' football program.

Hamilton, the head coach of The College of New Jersey football team for 37 years and the 2007 D3football.com East Region Coach of the Year, announced his retirement. A search for an interim head coach is underway.

Hamilton was facing a two-game suspension to start the season, stemming from a postgame incident last October vs. Kean.

“It is not easy and never a good time,” Hamilton told The Trentonian. “But maybe there is no better time than the present. After much discussion and soul searching (I) felt it was in the best interest of the program and me that I move forward.”

"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."

Hamilton compiled a record of 212-144-6, all of those wins and losses coming on the Lions' sideline. During his tenure, the Lions advanced to seven postseason appearances in the ECAC and the NCAA Division III championship tournament. TCNJ enjoyed NCAA playoff appearances in 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2007, while garnering ECAC tournament bids in 1995 and 2003. In October 2010, he became just the 12th coach in Division III history to capture his 200th victory.

"Eric has been the face of our football program for nearly four decades," noted athletic director John Castaldo. "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."

The Lions enjoyed 22 winning seasons under Hamilton and eight conference championships. The first in school history came in 1980 when his squad compiled an 8-1-1 record. They added conference titles in 1983, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2007.

Hamilton helped to solidify a choppy period of leadership with the Lions' football program in the early 1970s. After long-time coach Robert Salois retired in 1972, TSC had three head coaches over the next five years. When Carmen Piccone left his post after just two seasons in 1976, former athletic director Roy Van Ness turned to Hamilton, who was just 23 years old. When hired, Hamilton was the youngest collegiate head coach in the country.

A graduate of Bordentown High School, Hamilton was a scholar-athlete at Trenton State and an all-conference performer for three consecutive seasons. He left his mark at TSC as a player in 1974 when he became the first football player to earn All-American honors, receiving berths on the Kodak, Associated Press, and United Press International teams. He served as a graduate assistant for two seasons before being tabbed head coach of the program. In 1995, Hamilton was inducted into TCNJ's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Hamilton has received numerous coaching accolades during his career, including being selected Coach of the Year by the New Jersey College Football Writers Association two consecutive seasons in 1980 and 1981. Hamilton earned NJAC Coach of the Year honors in 1983, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2007 and was also cited by D3football.com as the East Region Coach of the Year after guiding the Lions to the NCAA tournament in 2007. In addition, Hamilton was the recipient of the National Football Foundations Chapter Leadership Award for the Eastern Region in 2002 and was recognized by the organization for his contributions to the sport.

In early 2012, Hamilton received the Robert Casciola Distinguished American Award, which was presented by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation. In January, Hamilton was recognized by the American Football Coaches Association as the newest member of the Club 35. The AFCA honors those who have been members for 35 years.

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