Widener names Bucks’ Mike Barainyak as head football coach

Barainyak is a graduate of Archbishop Wood High School and Delaware Valley University

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Calling the shots: Mike Barainyak, a graduate of Archbishop Wood High School and Delaware Valley University, was recently named head football coach at Widener University. Source: Widener University

Deciding on a career path is no easy feat. For many, determining one that will bring long-term happiness is practically impossible. But for Chalfont’s Mike Barainyak, his life’s calling has been evident since the age of 4, the first time he held a football.

“I grew up in sports. I started playing football when I was a little kid,” he said. “I’ve been playing sports my whole life. My father was a high school football coach, so sports was always a big deal in our family, and he kind of instilled the love of sports in me.”

Currently 32 years old, Barainyak can proudly say his early passion for the game never wavered. Truly his father’s son, the Archbishop Wood High School and Delaware Valley University graduate has successfully climbed the coaching ladder, recently named head football coach at Widener University in Chester.

Barainyak came to Widener in 2017 as the offensive line coach, before transitioning to offensive coordinator in 2018. Now, he’s ready for the next chapter of his career.

“It’s absolutely a dream come true. It’s a program that’s so rich in football tradition. There’s so many great football coaches that have come through Widener University. We have wonderful support from our alumni, wonderful support from the people on campus, great fans, great kids,” he said. “Every single day I get to coach wonderful players that get the job done in the classroom and on the field. It’s just a blessing to be here, to be a part of this community, and to just coach a program like this. It’s an absolute honor.”

Unlike many young athletes, Barainyak never envisioned himself being a star player in the NFL. It’s not that he wasn’t talented enough. He simply saw more fulfillment in inspiring the next generation as a coach. During his time at Archbishop Wood, where he was a tight end for the Vikings, Barainyak was heavily influenced by coaches Art Barrett, Joe Powel and Mike McKay. The same was true of Jim Clements, his head football coach at DelVal, and Duke Greco, his offensive coordinator.

“They were always just guys I admired and looked up to,” he said. “I kind of always knew, probably since I was in middle school or high school, that I was going to go the coaching route at some point.”

Despite learning a ton from these individuals, Barainyak will never forget that it was Mike Barainyak Sr. who first ignited that coaching flame.

“He was a huge influence on me as well. Just looking up to your dad, all the players that he’s mentored and being around the coaching staff as a little kid while my dad was there, it was something I was always attracted to,” Barainyak said. “Those guys were my heroes. I didn’t necessarily look up to guys on TV. My sports heroes were the guys who coached me, so I always knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”

After graduating with a degree in business administration/sport management from DelVal, Barainyak was hired by Clements at his alma mater as a tight end graduate assistant coach.

“We have exit meetings all the time at the end of the year where you’re talking to your coaches and they’re asking you what your plans are for the future,” Barainyak said. “And I had expressed to him throughout my career that I wanted to get into coaching, and I was lucky enough that he had a position on his staff available.”

In 2015, Barainyak accepted an assistant coach position at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, before heading back north in 2017 to lend his expertise to the Widener Pride. After the university’s athletics department announced at the end of 2018 that Mike Kelly, who served as head coach for four years, was no longer employed, Barainyak was named acting interim head coach for two months. At the same time, Widener commenced a nationwide search to find a permanent replacement, and Barainyak threw his name into the ring.

On Feb. 12, after a lengthy interview process, it was announced that he was offered and accepted the position. And he already has some goals in mind for the upcoming season.

“We want to establish a new culture here, a new identity of Widener football. That culture is moving in a new direction, but also bridging the gap to the past. Like I said, Widener football has so much rich tradition, and there’s an expected level of play,” he said. “When you come to Widener football, there’s a standard that’s been previously set by alumni, teams that have won national championships. Our goal is to get back to that level.”

In Barainyak’s opinion, he couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with during his first head coaching gig. Like him, they have dreams that go beyond playing for the NFL.

“We have players here who take a lot of challenging majors. Our team’s made up of engineers, nurses, physical therapy majors, guys that have goals. Life after football is a big thing that we talk about here,” he said. “Our kids want to succeed not only on the football field, they want to succeed in the classroom and in life.”

As Barainyak adjusts to his new position at Widener, he’s also adapting to a new arrival at home — his 3-week-old son, Tripp. Though his baby boy isn’t capable of tossing a football just yet, Barainyak hopes to instill in him an appreciation for the sport, just as his father once did.

“I think it’s great for kids to be involved in sports, learn the value of team, hard work, being competitive, and doing things the right way. Certainly, I want my son to grow up around the game of football,” he said. “It’s given me a lot of great gifts in my life. It helped mold me into the person that I am today. It’s a wonderful sport. It’s the greatest game in the world, and if my son can take some things that I learned from football that we try to instill in our players, I think in the end it’ll make him a better person.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com