During his senior year at Archbishop Wood in 1997, Joe Jamison had a severe case of tunnel vision when it came to selecting a college. The Langhorne resident planned to attend Ursinus College, located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. It was his No. 1 choice, especially after he was recruited to the school’s wrestling program by head coach Bill Racich.
However, things didn’t pan out as expected, and Jamison was forced to attend King’s College in Wilkes-Barre after landing a spot on Ursinus’ waitlist.
Fast-forward 22 years, and Jamison, who recently turned 40, finally made it into his top school…only it’s not as a student. Earlier this summer, it was announced by Laura Moliken, Ursinus’ director of athletics, that Jamison was named head coach of the wrestling program.
“It’s like a dream come true. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, be a Division III head coach. In the back of my mind, I never actually knew if it would come to fruition,” Jamison said. “I really wasn’t putting myself out there either and applying for jobs because it just didn’t make a ton of sense unless it was the perfect situation.”
For more than a decade, Jamison worked as an assistant at Princeton University, where he also served as head coach of the Princeton Wrestling Club and executive director of the Princeton Olympic Regional Training Center. It was a steady job, and Jamison didn’t want to disrupt the lives of his wife Brooke, and children, Henry (6) and Ella (4).
But when he stumbled across Ursinus’ job posting in the spring, he couldn’t ignore it.
“I remember telling my wife about 10 years ago before we were even married, that if that job ever comes up, I’m applying for it. I don’t care what is happening in our lives, I’m applying for that position,” he said.
With the support of Brooke, Jamison submitted his application and was called in for an interview. In May, halfway through the recruitment process, he withdrew his name from consideration. With him working during the day and Brooke locked into a night shift, who would take care of the kids?
“I was having a hard time envisioning that it was going to work out,” he said.
A month later, the search committee contacted Jamison, informing him that it had yet to find a better fit for the role. He was asked to reconsider. After an eight-hour interview on campus, Jamison left with a job offer, which he accepted the following week after Brooke willingly switched her schedule to accommodate.
“I have a lot of people in my corner. I have a lot of support,” he said. “It’s been a wild couple of weeks.”
As Jamison prepares for the upcoming season, which begins Oct. 10, he knows he has some big shoes to fill as Racich’s successor. Last September, the Ursinus legend passed away from a heart attack after a 38-year tenure at the school.
“He was not only a staple of the program, but a staple of the college itself. It rocked the whole community,” Jamison said. “As you can expect, the team had a very rough go of it, especially for the guys that were the upperclassmen, the juniors and seniors who were recruited by him.”
Jamison’s mission is to “right that ship” while holding fast to everything Racich established.
“Last year was about Coach Racich and who he was, and I want to embrace that and preserve the legacy and traditions that he built. But at the same time, I want to make sure that I’m moving the program forward as well,” Jamison said. “I’m going to go in there, be myself and try to make this program what I want it to be. But at the same time, his thumbprints are all over it and he’s walked it. I want to make sure my footsteps are walking right next to his as I push the program forward.”
Though the Ursinus wrestling team won the conference championship from 2011-2015, Jamision said the past few years haven’t been its strongest. Still, according to him, a slew of talented freshmen are joining the program, and he has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“I’m looking forward to working with them and really get on the map,” he said.
Moliken also has faith the newly-appointed coach will competently lead the team into its next chapter.
“Joe stood out to us in this search for his enthusiasm as an educator and his achievements at a leading Division I institution,” she said. “His technical knowledge and ability to implement a successful training regimen are second to none, and we firmly believe those qualities make him an ideal leader here at Ursinus as we move into a new era for the program.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org