Eli Gardner is in his second year as head coach of the football program at Stonehill, having been promoted after serving seven seasons on former head coach Robert Talley's coaching staff.
Gardner, the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston’s 2015 Division II Assistant Coach of the Year, completed his second season as assistant head coach last fall, having served as the Skyhawks Defensive Coordinator for five seasons. He has served as positional coach for the defensive backs and linebackers over his time on the Stonehill sideline as well.
Gardner joined Stonehill prior to the 2009 season as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach and has transformed the Stonehill defense into one of the premier units in not just the Northeast-10 Conference, but within all of Division II since taking over as defensive coordinator during the 2011 season. He directed a Stonehill defense which ranked second in the NE-10 and 11th nationally in Division II for total defense last season, allowing just 279.2 yards per game, and second in the Conference for passing defense (17th nationally) at 158.5 yards per game. The Skyhawks led the NE-10 (23rd) in rushing defense (120.6 yds/gm) and ranked fourth (34th) for scoring defense (20.9 ppg). The defense also ranked eighth nationally for first down defense (14.4 allowed per game) and 15th for third down conversion defense (30.6%).
15 Stonehill defensive players have earned All-Northeast-10 Conference honors in Gardner’s five seasons as defensive coordinator, with four also collecting All-Super Region 1 accolades and Jareed Gaines, ’13, and Brian Harrington, '15 earning All-America status. Harrington had a record-breaking season for the Skyhawks in 2013 and was a finalist for the inaugural Cliff Harris Award for the top small college defensive player in the country, while also earning the Joseph P. Zabilski Defensive Player of the Year Award from the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston.
Stonehill ranked in the top ten nationally in Division II for total defense (6th) in 2014, allowing an NE-10 low 284 yards per game, and rushing defense (10th), yielding a Conference low 94.7 yards per game. He helped guide the Skyhawks to a share of the 2013 Northeast-10 regular season championship for the first time in program history as the team posted its first winning season (8-3, 8-1 NE-10) since 1996. In addition to his sideline duties, Gardner has been Stonehill’s lead recruiter in his home state of New Jersey, while also gaining valuable ties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Maine. He also initiated and ran the football program’s social media marketing and promotions campaigns, coordinated the annual Stonehill Football Alumni Golf Outing and Winter Social.
Prior to joining the staff at Stonehill, Gardner spent one season as defensive line coach and video coordinator at Western New England University, his alma mater. He assisted in planning an organization of practices, scouting reports and game plans while also serving as the Golden Bears' primary recruiter in northern New Jersey and New York State.
Gardner is a 2008 graduate of Western New England University, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in sports management. He was a four year letterwinner for the Golden Bears football team serving as captain his senior season. He finished his career with 147 tackles as a linebacker and defensive end and was part of a class that finished their careers with the most victories over a four year period in program history upon graduation. Gardner recently completed his Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from Endicott College in 2014.
Gardner, a native of Milford, New Jersey, currently resides in Bridgewater, with his wife, Stephanie.