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UNH football: Ricky Santos named 20th head coach in Wildcats’ history


DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) has named Ricky Santos as the 20th head coach in the program history on Tuesday morning. Santos will be the new face of Wildcat football, and is tasked with taking the reins from one of the more decorated coaches in the history of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). He’ll also look to restore order into a program that used to be a mainstay in the FCS Playoffs. 

“I am humbled and honored to be named head coach for such a storied program and continue to work at such a prestigious institution,” Santos said. “We believe great teams are built on toughness, grit, and a family atmosphere. We will work hard to instill these qualities in our young men and cultivate an environment where our leaders thrive. This is truly an honor, and I am beyond excited to lead UNH football into the future.” 

Santos has some ground to start making up on his predecessor: 149 wins to be exact. McDonnell is one of just 13 FCS coaches to eclipse 150 wins (154 for McDonnell), and was one of just six coaches in that category who were active in 2021. 

“Ricky brings a great amount of energy, leadership and the same winning attitude he had as a player to the way he coaches,” McDonnell said. “He has that new voice and fresh ideas that will help us recapture the success UNH Football deserves. He may not be New Hampshire born, but he is New Hampshire bred, and I’m excited to see where he leads this football program.” 

Although Santos is being promoted from associate head coach and quarterbacks coach, he does have one season as an interim head coach on his resume. On Aug. 26, 2019 Santos was named the interim when McDonnell stepped away from the team due to his fight with bladder cancer. That season Santos led the Wildcats to a 6-5 overall record, 5-0 at home and kept them in the playoff hunt until the end of the regular season. An impressive feat considering New Hampshire’s 4-7 record the year prior, and being thrown into the position 12 days before their first game with a pair of first-year quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart. 

Santos has plenty of experience in the Wildcats’ program over the last two decades. During his time as the Wildcats’ quarterback, he became of one the most successful players to ever don the blue and white. His name riddles the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), Atlantic-10, Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), UNH and FCS history books.  

During his rookie season in 2004 Santos set rookie records in the FCS for yards gained in a game with 538 and touchdown passes in a season with 31. He also holds the UNH records in pass attempts (1,498), completions (1,024), touchdown passes (123) and passing yards (12,189). Santos led the Wildcats to a 37-14 record from 2004-2007, but perhaps his greatest achievement came as a junior. In 2006 Santos was named the winner of the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS; he threw for 3,125 yards and 29 touchdowns that season. 

Santos’ No. 2 jersey became one of just four jerseys ever retired by the program in 2016. 

At his retirement press conference last Wednesday, McDonnell said that there are people in the building who are more equipped to handle the program than him at this point. Santos will now lead that charge and search for the answers that have evaded the Wildcats in each of the last four seasons. 

Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot 

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  • AnonymousDec 7, 2021 at 8:25 pm