University of Northern Colorado
2011 - Present
Earnest Collins, Jr., the University of Northern Colorado single-season school record holder for punt return yards and a former assistant coach for the Bears, has been named the next head football coach, director of athletics Jay Hinrichs announced Dec. 28, 2010.
Collins becomes the 16th football coach in school history and the first to return to his alma mater to serve as head coach. In 1996, Collins received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Northern Colorado after playing for the Bears from 1991-94, where he amassed 978 punt return yards, then the school record and still second all-time. His 497 punt return yards from his senior season are still atop the school’s leader board.
Collins inherits a team with 36 returning lettermen, including 16 starters that posted a 3-8 record in 2010 and finished seventh in the Big Sky standings. He has remained an active member of the Blue & Gold Club and is also a member of the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee.
After a stellar career at Northern Colorado, where he lettered every season from 1991 through 1994 and earned all-conference honors in 1994, Collins spent 1996-99 at Northwest Missouri State as the secondary and assistant special teams coach, helping the Bearcats to the 1998 and 1999 NCAA Division II National Championships. In both seasons, Collins and the Bearcats got the best of the Bears in the playoffs, winning the quarterfinals in 1998 in Maryville (42-17) and then winning the 1999 semifinals at Nottingham Field (41-35).
From 2000-03, Collins returned to Greeley where he served as the secondary and special teams coach. In 2002, the Bears reached the NCAA Division II Semifinals and had the top-ranked defense in the North Central Conference (NCC) and No. 8 defense among Division II (249.8 yards per game).
After his second coaching stint with UNC, Collins became the special teams and cornerbacks coach at Kansas from 2003-06. The Jayhawks advanced to two bowl games and he coached a pair of All-Americans in the defensive backfield. He spent 2007 at Central Florida before heading to Alcorn State in 2008 as the associate head coach. In 2009, he was elevated to head coach at Alcorn State.