In his first seven years on the Bucknell sideline, Joe Susan has certainly impacted the culture of the program. He has his favorite sayings like “The Ball is the Program,” which focuses on limiting and creating turnovers. Susan and his staff strive to recruit strong citizens to Bucknell and work to develop them into even better people by the time they graduate. His staff and players work to emulate the primary philosophy of the program in being selfless, accountable and mentally tough.
With his efficient coaching style and zest for recruiting, it didn’t take long for Susan to make an impact at Bucknell. In just his second season at the helm, Susan led the Bison to a five-win improvement, equaling the program record. He has now overseen three above-.500 records in the past six years, including the program’s best showing in nearly two decades.
In 2014, Bucknell reached the eight-win plateau for just the fifth time in school history and was in contention for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament heading into the season finale against Colgate. The Bison, who posted an 8-3 overall record, finished second in the Patriot League. For his efforts, Susan became Bucknell’s first Patriot League Coach of the Year since Tom Gadd in 1997 and was also a finalist for the Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year Award.
In 2016, Susan coached Bucknell’s first NFL Draft pick since 1969 in offensive lineman Julie’n Davenport. Davenport, the fourth-round selection of the Houston Texans, became the seventh Bison to be taken in the NFL Draft and the program’s second-highest selection.
Susan ranks tied for seventh in Bucknell history with 32 victories and is fifth in games coached (77). He is 42-45 in his career as a head coach, which included a 10-0 season at Davidson.
A veteran of nearly 40 years in the college coaching profession, Susan was named the Bob Odell Head Football Coach at Bucknell on January 27, 2010. The 26th head coach since the Bison began play in 1883, he took over a program that currently ranks in the top 20 of the Division I FCS ranks with 596 victories.
Susan, a 1978 graduate of the University of Delaware, served near-decade-long stints at Bucknell (1981-1990), Princeton (1991-1999) and Rutgers (2001-2009) before becoming the Bison head coach. He has had tenures at both the FBS (Rutgers, Memphis) and FCS (Bucknell, Princeton, Davidson) levels.
Susan returned to Bucknell from Rutgers, where he spent the previous nine years as an assistant coach on Greg Schiano’s staff. Schiano, a three-time letterwinner at Bucknell who was recruited by Susan, served as co-captain as a senior in 1987.
“I am thrilled for our student-athletes and football program to be able to welcome Joe Susan and his family back to Bucknell,” said Bison director of athletics and recreation John Hardt at the time of Susan’s hiring. “His 30-plus years of successful experience in college football have prepared him exceptionally well to lead our program and reestablish the winning traditions of Bison Football.Through his student-focused approach, Joe has demonstrated an ability to recruit and mentor top-notch student-athletes at all levels of college football. Coach Susan has a passion for the sport of football and devotion for the young men he coaches on a daily basis. I know he is eager to get to work, and everyone associated with Bison Athletics is looking forward to welcoming him back to campus.”
At Rutgers, Susan spent two years as the offensive line coach before adding tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator to his duties in 2003. As recruiting coordinator, he was integral in securing several highly touted and nationally ranked recruiting classes, including the 2009 group, which was ranked in the top 25 nationally by ESPN.com. His main recruiting areas were Central New Jersey, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Florida, Delaware and Canada, though he directed Rutgers’ national efforts.
Before Susan’s arrival at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights had not posted a record above .500 for nearly a decade and had qualified for one bowl game in 131 years of football. In 2009, Rutgers played in its fifth-consecutive bowl game and finished 9-4.
Susan directed a deep corps of tight ends during his tenure at Rutgers that included former three-time All-Big East selection Clark Harris, a 2007 seventh-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers. Harris is going into his 10th season in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Before his time at Rutgers, Susan spent one year as the head coach at Davidson in 2000. He led the Wildcats to a 10-0 record, a single-season record for wins and the only undefeated team in program history. Susan was named the Coach of the Year by the Division I-AA Independents Sports Information Directors Association. Additionally, he received a Presidential Citation from the University of Delaware for outstanding achievement.
At Princeton, Susan served as both the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for nearly a decade. In addition to recruiting duties at the Ivy League institution, he organized and implemented year-round strength and conditioning programs, developed and coordinated the spring football clinic and coordinated travel plans for away games.
Susan’s initial tour of duty at Bucknell began in June 1981. From 1981 through 1988, he was in charge of the offensive line and served as strength coach for the Bison under head coaches Bob Curtis and George Landis. When Lou Maranzana was hired as head coach prior to the 1989 campaign, Susan was promoted to assistant head coach while keeping his duties with the offensive line.
Susan’s first foray into the coaching profession came at his alma mater, where he was a graduate assistant on two separate occasions, separated by a one-year stint at Gettysburg College.
Susan enjoyed an outstanding playing career at Delaware (1973-76), helping his team post a 36-12-1 record. The 1976 Newark Touchdown Club Offensive Lineman of the Year, he helped the Blue Hens to two Lambert Cups (1974, 1976) and the NCAA Division II national championship game in 1974.
In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Delaware, Susan earned his master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from his alma mater in 1982.
A native of South River, New Jersey, Susan was inducted into his high school’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
Off the field, Susan is a member of the American Football Coaches Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the University of Delaware Alumni Association and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He is presently serving as the President of the FCS Executive Committee of the American Football Coaches Association.
Susan and his wife, Cindy, have three adult children: Matthew, Jessica and Julia.
RECRUITING AREAS: New Jersey (Somerset, Monmouth, Middlesex and Mercer), Delaware