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A Tribute to Coach Bryan Collins

By Joe Frescott, Sports Editor

Few people can be described as “larger than life.” There is no doubt that former LIU Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Bryan Collins was one of those individuals. 

The LIU community was saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Bryan Collins on July 8, 2023, at the age of 58 years old. Collins had recently been promoted to Defensive Coordinator at Stony Brook University this past January in what would have been his third season in the program. 

Bryan Collins spent the majority of his career as LIU’s head football coach, leading the program for 23 seasons ever since he became the sixth coach in program history in 1998. Collins would do double duty for a decade of his time at Post, serving as the Athletic Director from 2006 to 2016. 

Jamel Ramsay, a 2007 graduate and former player/coach under Collins, describes the person that Coach Collins was. 

“Collins was an honest man. He would tell you exactly how he felt. He would give you the love that he desired and needed, but he also wanted to make sure that you knew that you still had work to do. There were things that needed to be done. He was always trying to impart his wisdom onto you, whether it was a player playing under his program, or as a coach,” the current Head Coach at Nassau Community College said.

Broadcasting alumni Thomas Scavetta shares in Ramsay’s sentiment. 

“I don’t think people realize how good of a person Coach Collins was. He always knew the right thing to say to players, coaches, families, broadcasters; he always energized us with a lot of positive energy and that is one thing that I always enjoyed about him.”

His caring nature carried over to his recruitment process as well. 

“He gave a lot of athletes, local talent like myself opportunities. A lot of the guys didn’t have big offers, but he made sure he got guys that he wanted to help build this program. I am forever grateful for that,” 2003 Northeast-10 Offensive Player of the Year and alumni Jeremiah Pope said. “In my experience at Post, he was a father figure more than a coach. Coach was just a title. He looked to all of us in that locker room; players, coaches, staff, cafeteria workers, he loved everybody. He treated his players like sons and made sure we were on the right path.”

Coach Collins’s treatment of others translated well to the football field, where he holds the record as the winningest coach in LIU history. Bolstering a 162-84 record, Collins was an eight-time Northeast 10 conference champion, leading the Pioneers to six NCAA tournament appearances. Collins was named Northeast 10 Coach of the Year seven times in his tenure, with his last coming in 2018 following his third undefeated regular season. 

Courtesy of Newsday

As Ramsay recalls, this tremendous success did not come by accident. 

“His tradition, discipline, detailed oriented approach, holding people accountable, the culture, and all of the little things that got us over the hump,” Ramsay said. “I remember him preaching building through adversity, ‘Some break, others break records.’ He walked around with such a bravado to him. He was bigger than life.”

Coach Collins was one of the fundamental pillars that helped lead the transition for LIU athletics from Division II to Division I. In the two seasons, he coached the program at Division I, he led the Sharks to their first-ever victory in the spring of 2021 and was named one of sixteen finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the top head coach in the FCS. 

Broadcasting alumni Travis Demers believes this transition was made possible by Collins.

“For LIU to be where it is, where you now have football as a Division I FCS program and you have the combination of the Brooklyn and Post campuses. I don’t think that happens without Bryan Collins because he made football relevant. You can talk about all the reasons why; the recruiting, athletes, coaching, what type of person he was. But none of that happens without the job he does with football. You can’t make that jump without a viable football program,” the current radio play-by-play for the Portland Trail Blazers said. “LIU athletics, not just LIU football, is not where it is today without Bryan Collins being a major part of it.”

Outside of the football field, the love and respect that Collins showed stretched beyond one’s days as a player, coach, and staff member. 

“[For] Homecoming, he would make sure he had the big tent set up for us, and once the field got done, we were in the back of the endzone with all the Post alumni. We communicated a lot. It was nice to wake up in the morning on Father’s Day, on Easter, and get that same text message from Coach Collins. That is the impact. It’s a family, it’s gonna continue to be a family and he made sure that whether you were playing, whether you were coaching with him, or whether you graduated ten years ago that he was always gonna reach out,” Pope said.  

Ramsay describes the lasting impact that his former coach left. 

“His legacy will lead through his kids and family most importantly, but from the sporting world, I am carrying a torch in Nassau. We have guys at Ohio State carrying the torch. We got guys at Hamilton College,” he said. “We call it the coaching tree, and his is very, very big. Anybody that I coach will have pieces of him in them so it’s going to continue to grow, which is the most beautiful thing you can think of as a coach.”

LIU football honored Bryan Collins with a pregame ceremony before the kickoff of this past weekend’s homecoming game against the Sacred Heart Pioneers. Accompanied by former players and coaches, his wife Patti and children Tyler and Megan were in attendance to honor his memory and legacy. 

The quoted material contained in this article was courtesy of the Coach Collins Tribute episode from 88.1 FM WCWP’s “Sports Shark Tank,” with the original episode airing on July 13, 2023. “Sports Shark Tank” airs every Thursday night from 9:00-11:00 p.m. on 88.1 FM. 

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