Ecke resigns as Cheshire football coach [Updated]

Mark Ecke

Note: This post has been updated with links to two new stories published in the aftermath of Mark Ecke’s resignation. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the latest.

Mark Ecke, who won four state championships and was an architect of one of Connecticut’s most dominating runs in the 1990s, has  resigned as head football coach at Cheshire High School after 17 seasons, 24 overall.

Ecke, who coached the final two years of Cheshire’s state-record 49-game win streak (1995 and 1996), leaves with a record of 118-64-3. He has won the most games in school history.

He got into trouble following an altercation at a junior varsity lacrosse game earlier this month.

Serious doubts about his position swirled.

Then Ecke released this statement Monday night:

“I am contacting you this evening to let you know that I have decided to decided to step down from my duties as head football coach at Cheshire High School.  It was a difficult decision, but one that I believe best serves my family, the football program and my players.

It has been my honor to coach our players over the last 24 years, players that have gone on to all levels of success not just in football but in life.    I will always have great memories of the big wins, and still lose sleep over the heartbreaking defeats.  To me, however, the wins and losses pale in comparison to the opportunity that I’ve had to be a positive influence on so many student-athletes’ lives.  I have had the chance to coach players that have honored our country with service in the military, players that have attended all the service academies, nearly every Ivy League Institution and NESCAC school and other great schools around the country.  Our program has alumni that are doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, and many that run their own successful businesses.  It is always a thrill to get together with them and reminisce about our time together.

If you speak with any of our players or coaches, I believe they will share with you that I am passionate about the game of football, I am passionate about our program and our players, and I am most passionate about my family.  I feel very protective of each of them, and, if I feel one of them is not being treated properly, I am vocal about it.

I look forward to new challenges for myself, and plan to coach again.  I leave behind a tremendous group of seniors that I have grown very close to.  I know that they will rise to the challenge that is being placed before them and I wish them well.

I would like to thank everyone for the countless e-mails, phone calls, and texts, as well as those that have approached me offering support over the last few weeks.  I would also like to thank my peers in the high school coaching community.  Your thoughts and words of encouragement have meant a lot to me and my family.  I would also like to thank the community, parents and the longtime supporters of Cheshire Football for all your support over the last 24 years.  It has been my honor and pleasure to work with all of you.”

See you in the fall


Some quick thoughts:

It doesn’t take a cryptologist to read between the lines of that resignation letter, especially the third paragraph. Ecke didn’t want to leave his alma mater and attempts to explain his notoriously fiery sideline demeanor.

But his superiors wanted him out after this episode. Late last week, Cheshire announced it was cancelling participation in spring practices. Though Ecke was going to get a chance to defend himself, it sounded like his job was a lost cause from the start. Maybe he realized that.

According to a follow-up from the Register on Tuesday night, that’s exactly what happened.

For such an outstanding run, it’s sad to see it end this way.

So, as Ecke rides off, where does Cheshire go from here?

This is one of the state’s plumb coaching jobs and there’s bound to be some turmoil in the aftermath of Ecke’s sudden departure.

Cheshire’s only had six head coaches in 58 years of existence. Will the administration keep the position in the Cheshire family (with associate head coach Rich Puliciano the prime candidate), or will it be looking for a fresh face?

Update: Puliciano, along with AD Steve Trifone and special teams coach Greg Ferry spoke to the Record-Journal about Ecke and the program’s future in this article published Tuesday night. Some interesting thoughts here.

Apparently, we were unaware that Puliciano stepped down from his football position last month to spend more time with his family (he’s still coaching lacrosse). So his candidacy might not be a sure thing, and he told the RJ as much.

“It’s probably the logical thing, in a sense, to put my name in there, but no one’s asked and my full attention right now is on my lacrosse team.”

Trifone, meanwhile, spoke about the process of finding a new, possibly interim, coach for the 2012 season.

“Whether or not we want to put an interim coach in or go ahead and do a search and put a permanent coach in, that will be discussed in the next couple days, with the input of the administration and myself. …First I need to see if we have interest within. We’ll take it from there … We have some good candidates. The question is do they want to take on that role.”

Sean Patrick Bowley