Paul Castonia has found a home at Plymouth State. After moving around the college football world for 15 years and gaining experience at all levels, Castonia is now in his 16th year at Plymouth State in 2018 and has re-established the Panthers as one of the top programs in New England small college football.
Castonia has coached the Panthers through the final season in the Freedom Football Conference, two years of being a Division III Independent, seven years in the New England Football Conference, and most recently helped usher Plymouth State in as a member of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) in 2013.
The Joe Yukica Chapter of the National Football Foundation recognized Castonia's impact on New England college football, presenting him with the Andy Mooradian Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football in 2015 and he was named the MASCAC Champion's Choice Coach of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.
Last fall the Panthers won seven straight league games after an 0-1 start to capture the program's first MASCAC title and clinch a spot in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament for the fifth time in program history.
Under his tenure, PSU has made four postseason appearances. In addition to last year's run to the NCAA Tournament the Panthers also made an appearance in 2008. Castonia also led the team to an ECAC North Atlantic Bowl title in 2007 and an appearance in the ECAC Northeast Bowl in 2009.
Castonia turned the program around after joining the Panthers in 2003. Inheriting a team that was winless in 2002, he was 9-29 in his first four years before guiding the team to four straight winning seasons with a combined record of 33-10 and three straight post-season berths. He has a combined record of 68-84 at Plymouth State and a 69-113 overall head coaching record.
The Panthers posted a 9-1 record in 2007 and a championship victory in the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl. They followed that with a 10-2 mark in 2008, including the Bogan Division title (7-0), the NEFC Championship and a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Castonia led the Panthers to an 8-3 record in 2009 with a third straight post-season berth in the ECAC Northeast Bowl.
The team has seen steady progress each season after joining the MASCAC in 2013. Following three straight losing seasons the Panthers were an even 4-4 in league play in 2016, before last fall's 7-1 championship run.
Castonia was named NEFC Boyd Division Coach of the Year in 2007 and New England Division II/III Coach of the Year in 2008. They were well-deserved honors for a coach who had long paid his dues with previous stints at Divisions 1-A, 1-AA, 2 and 3.
When Castonia arrived in 2003 as the 11th head coach in the program’s history, he brought experience from previous coaching stops at the University of Rhode Island, University of Maryland, Hartwick College, Ferrum College, the University of Massachusetts Boston and Bryant University.
Although the Panthers have continued to show progress every season since Castonia arrived, his focus is on more than just wins and losses. While the Panthers no doubt aim to having a winning program year in and year out, being good students and quality citizens are equally as important.
"We recruit young men who want to graduate, and who are willing to work hard to be successful in the classroom and on the football field," says Castonia, a 1986 graduate of Trinity College (Conn.) who earned a Master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1989. "We try to put them in a position to succeed both as students and as football players."
Castonia says the biggest rewards for him don’t come on Saturdays in the fall, but on graduation day in the spring.
"It’s very gratifying when a guy graduates and is excited about pursuing his chosen career," says Castonia, "and he is using the habits and lessons he learned and developed on the football field in those endeavors."
Castonia and his wife Leslie reside in Ashland.