In a coaching career spanning 35 years, Mike Faragalli won Canadian Football League and Football Championship Subdivision titles and worked at the BCS level, most recently at the University of Virginia.
His latest position, as an assistant at Division III Christopher Newport, represents a return to his coaching roots and is a product of timing, fortune and location.
"I've been at all levels and been in a lot of different situations," Faragalli said, "but nowadays, at my age, it's more important to enjoy it. I really enjoy getting up and going to work every day and we had a great spring practice. I love the coaches, love the players. It's a quality-of-life thing. That's the way coaching is supposed to be — not constantly looking over your shoulder worrying if you're going to be fired."
Faragalli, 55, will coach quarterbacks, call plays and coordinate special teams for the Captains. He replaces the late Ed Davis, who passed away suddenly last fall after a brief battle with cancer.
"Coaching quarterbacks and calling plays, that's in Mike's wheelhouse," CNU head coach Matt Kelchner said. "He's won championships, he's a proven winner, good person. He's a great addition to our staff."
Kelchner and Faragalli worked together at William and Mary 30 years ago, when Kelchner began coaching and Faragalli was a young assistant. They remained friendly through the years, if not in constant contact, as Faragalli's career took him to the CFL, Bowling Green and Lafayette, while Kelchner advanced as an assistant at W&M under Jimmye Laycock before starting CNU's program.
Faragalli and Kelchner reconnected when he returned to the state as an assistant to Mike London at Richmond, where the Spiders won the 2008 FCS title. He accompanied London to the University of Virginia and coached there three years before he was fired in a staff shakeup after the 2012 season.
When no full-time position materialized, Faragalli took a volunteer assistant's job at Virginia State last season. The Trojans finished 9-1 last season, a rewarding experience, Faragalli said. But he sought full-time work.
He keeps a house in Richmond and was reluctant to move. He has a small boat at a marina in Poquoson, for getaways and fishing excursions. Coincidentally, Kelchner had an opening.
Faragalli's daughter, Laura, is about to enter her senior year at CNU. She did video work for the football team as a freshman, remained close to the program and will be editor of the school paper next year.
"I thought it would be pretty special to experience some of that with her," Faragalli said. "The whole situation just kind of came together."
Faragalli said that he plans to live on his boat, a 23-footer with a small cabin below that is advertised to sleep two. "But actually it sleeps a big one, which is perfect for me," he said.
He knows that he must endure stifling summer heat during the dog days of preseason, but he has the school and offices for relief, or a longer trip to Richmond if necessary. He said the boat has a heater for colder temperatures in October and November, and for striper season.
Given Faragalli's resume and makeshift living arrangements, it prompts the question: Might CNU be just a one-year stop on the way to something bigger?
"To be honest, I've never looked at a job longer than the next season," he said. "I know it's a business and they say you're only as good as your last game, and these days sometimes it's not even your last game. But again, it gets back to quality of life and how comfortable you are, and I can tell you that I'm very comfortable at CNU.
"I don't know what happens after next year or maybe after the next two or three years. At my age, I'm still young enough that I might have a couple more moves left in me, but I'm not looking beyond next season."
Kelchner acknowledged that Faragalli may be a short-term fix, but said, "I've got an opportunity to hire an outstanding coach, a guy who's done it at every level. The way I look at it is, I can learn something from this guy. He can be a real benefit to us. He can help our program."
Kelchner pointed out that he knew Adam Braithwaite was a rising star in coaching circles and was happy to have him as defensive coordinator for one year in 2011. The former W&M player is now the defensive coordinator at Chattanooga.
"It's the nature of the business," Kelchner said. "Guys get opportunities and move on. It can happen here, it can happen with the Green Bay Packers, it can happen at Hampton High. I think if you have the opportunity to bring a guy in with that kind of knowledge, you do it."
Faragalli's offenses at Bowling Green led the Mid-American Conference in scoring during four of his eight years, in two different stints. At Lafayette, his passing offenses ranked first or second in the Patriot League five of his first six years.
Faragalli said that his offensive aim is balance and unpredictability. He wants to run and pass in equal measures, with his quarterbacks under center or out of a shotgun formation. He will mix in some option, for a change of pace.
"The system is already in place," he said. "We just made some tweaks and adjustments."
He said that in spring practice, he was "pleasantly surprised" at CNU's talent, particularly at the offensive skill positions. He said a couple receivers are capable of playing at the FCS level, and the quarterbacks can execute what he wants and are perhaps just a few inches short of FCS-caliber.
"It's a good academic school, so you're dealing with smart kids," Faragalli said. "Because they're not on scholarship, they're playing for the love of the game. It feels like my time at Lafayette, where they didn't have scholarships at the time and kids were on need-based aid, so a lot of them were playing just because they loved it. It's refreshing to coach in a situation like that."
Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.