When you talk about college football on Long Island, you can’t have a meaningful discussion about that topic unless that conversation includes the name of Bryan Collins.
After a 23-year run as head coach at CW Post/LIU Post/Long Island University, the seven-time Northeast 10 Coach of the Year stepped away from that role following the 2020 season and made his way out east to Stony Brook joining head coach Chuck Priore’s staff as the Seawolves’ defensive line coach for the 2021 campaign.
And now, after two seasons in that role, Collins has been elevated to defensive coordinator. Stony Brook made the announcement on Monday.
“I’m very excited,” said Collins during a phone conversation with Greater Long Island. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be more impactful. I kind of stepped back for the past two years to absorb it all in since leaving the head coaching job and doing all of those type of things prior.”
During his time on the Brookville campus, Collins wore many hats, including athletic director, head football coach and defensive coordinator. When LIU Post merged sports operations with its NYC campus LIU Brooklyn, he oversaw the elevation of the football program to the FBS Division I level as the LIU Post Pioneers became the LIU Sharks. Collins coached the Sharks for one season before stepping away and ultimately joining Stony Brook’s staff.
Over the years, Collins and Priore developed a relationship and that led to Collins coming on board.
“Being coaches on Long Island, we knew of each other and we saw each other at certain events,” said Collins. “If we had a transfer, we’d have a conversation. It was really a professional relationship, which was very amicable and open.”
Collins knows his defense.
The former linebacker at St. John’s University began coaching at the collegiate level as defensive assistant coach for CW Post from 1991 to 1993. He then spent two seasons as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy from 1994 to 1996. He rejoined CW Post as coordinator/linebackers coach from 1996-97 and was promoted to head coach in 1998.
Now he’s getting the opportunity to shape the Seawolves defensive unit for the 2023 season.
“I was able to sit back for two years and watch it,” said Collins. “The first year was basically spent with trying to learn it. I think it will be very similar. There will be little tweaks. Now we’ll just get together as a staff and decide how much verbiage do we want to keep from previous defenses or do we want to change it wholesale and let the kids figure it out a little bit more.”
Now that he’s been at Stony Brook for a couple of years, Collins has been able to enjoy the benefits of the many bells and whistles that the university has to offer in terms of the facilities and the ability to grow the program. From the 12,300-seat Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium to the indoor practice facility to the weight room, Stony Brook has everything that a college football program needs to be successful.
That certainly helps in the recruiting of players making Stony Brook sort of a “hidden gem” when it comes to college football in the northeast.
“Absolutely,” said Collins. “There are no ‘wants.’ I came from an institution where we were the ‘not to haves’ of the conference and you kind of wanted a lot and that ultimately led to myself leaving that position. You keep on growing within the facilities. The facilities are nice and now you have to be able to keep improving. It’s always an arms race in college football and college athletics as a whole.”
That arms race also includes keeping Long Island high school football players on Long Island and bringing them to Stony Brook.
Collins has spent decades building up relationships with high school players and coaches on Long Island and that is a big reason why Priore gave him the added role of being in charge of the Long Island recruiting area. Getting quality football players from Nassau and Suffolk to stay home and be a part of the Seawolves family is imperative for the growth of the program.
Collins believed that when he was at Post/LIU, and it’s also been the mindset at Stony Brook over the years.
“It’s a must to be honest with you,” said Collins. “We have to win in our backyard always and continuously. That being said, it has to be the right players to win with. We want those best players who are on (Long) Island to come to Stony Brook. Right now, it’s even more critical with those relationships because with this transfer portal there’s been less opportunities for these high school players, especially at the FCS or FBS level.”
While Collins rolls up his sleeves to build a strong defensive unit at Stony Brook, does the idea of becoming a head coach start to creep on him? As of now, Collins says no.
“As a head coach, and specifically now in college football, if you’re coaching you have to spend a lot of time on other stuff,” said Collins. “You’re the CEO of the company. It’s tough to be that head coach. You never say never, but I’m very perfectly happy. I was happy being defensive line coach. I’m very happy being the coordinator. Right now, I don’t see the head coaching in front of me. I just want to be impactful in what I have in front of me.”
Collins has been making a big impact on Long Island for many years. The owner of 16 winning seasons along with three undefeated teams with the Pioneers, Collins has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success winning games and identifying young talent on Long Island.
And now, he has the chance to build a defense at Stony Brook that will help turn the Seawolves into a perennial FCS winning program.
Top: Stony Brook newly appointed defensive coordinator Bryan Collins. (Credit: Twitter)