Mark Whipple is a 56-year-old coaching lifer.

If he required any reassurance that being a coach remains one of the most rewarding tasks in his daily regimen, he needed only to glance at all the smiling faces inside the Mullins Center’s aptly named Massachusetts room for his official re-introduction yesterday to know his heart belongs with UMass.

“Sometimes you have to go away to find out where your home is,” said Whipple, who said the decision to return as the Minutemen football coach was a family one that included his wife, Brenda, and sons, Spencer and Austin. “People ask me, ‘Why would you leave the NFL?’ They haven’t been to UMass. This is perfect. This is a special, special place.”

After sitting out this season following a two-year stint as quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns, the itch to work the sidelines returned.

“I told my wife that I could make a bigger impact than I’ve ever made in my life on people, young, old and in between at the University of Massachusetts, and that’s what I’m really, really excited about, because I believe in this place,” said Whipple, who coached the Minutemen from 1998-2003, including the Division 1-AA championship his first season. “It hit me after the interview when I walked around this place (football stadium, main campus) that I will be a better teacher than I have ever been. I needed to broaden my horizon and compete at the highest level. But the NFL is seclusionary. I missed talking with the kids, with the people. This is the greatest day of my life and it’s only going to get better.

“A long time ago, someone told me that coaches win games but administrations win championships. I learned that at UMass and I believe in this administration with what they are doing with this university and we will win championships here at UMass,” added Whipple, who was wearing the Super Bowl ring he won with the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. “We’re here to get jewelry.”

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said an agreement was reached with Whipple last weekend but the final details are still being ironed out. McCutcheon said the contract is for five years at an annual salary of $250,000.

“You can see he has charisma. I think it’s the whole package. He’s a special kind of person,” McCutcheon said. “There is no mystery why his players think so highly of him.”

Former UMass coach Mike Hodges praised the hiring of Whipple.

“I think the biggest thing that’s happened is right here in this room, and that’s the attitude change,” Hodges said. “The whole program has instant credibility and he has brought that. He’s extremely confident. He’s a dedicated guy, but he understands this game is a people’s game, the players, the parents, the faculty, the administration and everything. He understands all that.”