By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- His title since early August has been interim head football coach at Bridgewater State University.
After guiding the Bears to their first conference championship in 16 years, Joe Verria has had the “interim’’ label removed from that title.
The announcement that Verria will be the Bridgewater State head coach moving forward was made Thursday by university president Frederick Clark during the annual pregame luncheon for the Ocean Spray Cranberry Bowl.
“It feels good,’’ said Verria, whose team has qualified for the NCAA Division 3 tournament after winning the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference title. “I’m appreciative that they believed in us enough to be able to do that.
“It shows they have trust and faith in me and the direction the program is going.
“I’ve been asked the question in the past, ‘What does interim mean?’ Now I don’t have to answer it any more.
Verria, an assistant coach for 28 seasons after playing four years at Bridgewater State, was named the interim coach not long before the start of training camp last summer.
He took over for Chuck Denune, who resigned.
The Bears lost two non-conference games to open the season under Verria, but they have gone 7-0 in the MASCAC. The seven-game winning streak is the program’s longest since 1999.
Bridgewater State ends the regular season against Mass. Maritime Academy Saturday in the annual Cranberry Bowl before moving on to the NCAAs.
“I think when you look at the job he did coming in so late and serving so well as an interim, it made the decision easy,’’ said BSU’s director of athletics, Dr. Marybeth Lamb. “In my mind, as I told the president, there was no one better that we could go out and look for. If we have someone right here, why not hire the best?
“Not only did he bring the football knowledge and skill development, but he has brought the ability to develop fine young men.
“He’s so concerned with them not only as football players, but as fine young men. That’s what he’s committed to. Bridgewater couldn’t have picked a better coach.’’