Jerry McDougall, a pillar of Connecticut and national high school athletics for more than 50 years, died Wednesday morning. He was 76.
A member of both the National High School and Connecticut High School Hall of Fame, McDougall’s Trumbull football teams reigned supreme in Connecticut from 1967-1998.
During his tenure, Trumbull won an unprecedented 265 games, three state championships and five FCIAC championships. He coached five undefeated teams and finished No. 1 in the state four times. McDougall retired as the all-time winningest football coach in state history and influenced countless people in Trumbull, Fairfield County and Connecticut.
“I lost my best friend, my role model and a father figure,” said Joe Markus, who starred on McDougall’s first state championship team and went on to play at UConn. “He taught me right from wrong. He knocked me down and picked me back up. He was the man.”
McDougall’s baseball teams were just as dominant as his football teams. He won 510 games, nine division titles, three FCIAC title and two Class LL championships in four appearances. McDougall served as Trumbull’s athletic director, track and field coach. He started the wrestling program, which flourishes to this day.
“Coach McDougall was one of a kind,” said Petroccio, who played on McDougall’s first state championship team in 1977 and later worked with him as an assistant coach before taking the head coaching job at Staples.
“There will never be another guy like him. He loved the game of football. He loved people. He loved life.”
For all of his accomplishments, McDougall amassed a dizzying resume of state and national coaching accolades. He was the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s football coach of the year in 1976 and baseball coach of the year in 1995. He earned the same honors from the National High School Athletics Federation in 1993 (football) and 2003 (baseball).
“Everybody will talk about Jerry McDougall the coaching legend, which he was. But I speak of his humanity. He helped people throughout his life. He was a great human being,” said Trumbull athletic director Mike Herbst, who was an assistant football coach under McDougall for 28 years.
“The things he taught the kids about life, the kids never realized it at the time. They thought he was being too tough. But they’d come back years later and say thank you for getting on them and busting their ass, making them the best they could be. The lessons he taught them, they’d use later in life.”
McDougall served as president of both the Fairfield County Athletic Association and Connecticut High School Coaches Association and presided over the Ralph DeSantis Fairfield County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for 10 years. He was a member of the CHSCA executive committee and was a member of its board of directors.
He was a lifetime member of both the American Football Coaches Association and the IAABO Board 9 basketball officials.
A Bridgeport native, McDougall was a three-sport star and captain at Bassick High School, where he graduated in 1954. He went on to play football, basketball and baseball at the University of Bridgeport and was captain of the school’s football team in his junior and senior seasons. After spending 13 months in the Army, he returned home to begin his coaching career.
McDougall became football coach at Central Catholic in 1961. Beginning with just a junior varsity team, McDougall turned Central Catholic into a state power within three years. It finished 7-1-1 in 1965 and 8-1-1 in 1966.
He became head coach at Trumbull the next season. The school’s football field is named in his honor.
“Today, Trumbull has lost one of its most cherished residents and I have lost a mentor and friend,” Trumbull first selectman Tim Herbst said. “I have known Jerry McDougall my entire life and I consider it one of life’s greatest privileges in knowing him, knowing his family and playing football for him.”
In his later years, McDougall kept busy. After 10 years away from football, he signed on to coach at St. Luke’s in 2008 and coached as recently as last season.
McDougall is survived by his two children, Jerry McDougall Jr. and Lauren Jorgensen. He was predeceased by his wife, Loretta, who died in 2001.
The Fairfield County chapter honored McDougall with the lifetime achievement award in April. Here’s the emotional speech in what turned out to be his last.