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Jack Cochran hired as Harding football coach

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Jack Cochran during his turn at New London's football coach in 2008. He has won eight state titles in 14 title game appearances in his career.

Jack Cochran during his turn at New London’s football coach in 2008. He has won eight state titles in 14 title game appearances in his career.

Jack Cochran, both the most successful and controversial high school football coach in recent Connecticut high school history, has been hired as Harding’s football coach, citywide athletic director Neil Kavey confirmed Saturday.

“Jack Cochran will be the head coach at Harding next year,” Kavey said.

Cochran, whose last job as a head coach was at New London in 2008, takes over a foundering program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1996 and is 9-91 over the last 10 years.

“It’s like a rebirth,” Cochran said. “It’s been a long three or four years and I’m excited to getting back to doing what I love: coaching kids.”

He thanked Kavey, Harding athletic director Chris Johnson, and administrators Mike Testani and John Fabrizi, the former Bridgeport Mayor, and Paul Vallas, the Superintendent of Schools, for the opportunity.

“I knew this is a tough situation,” he said. “But I have a lot of support here, top to bottom.”

[Related - Kevin Duffy: Showing incident-free progress at Harding is Cochran's goal]

Cochran has won eight state championships in 14 title game appearances at Bloomfield, New Britain and New London and is widely regarded as one of the best high school football coach in Connecticut.

His career coaching record is 160-24-2. He has coached NFL and college talents like Dwight Freeney, Andrew Pinnock, Mike McLeod, Jordan and David Reed.

“It all comes down to kids,” Cochran said. “I’ve already met with several of the players. It comes down to them willing to work and I’ve seen it already. The kids are ready, they’re hungry and ready to go.”

As successful as he’s been on the field, Cochrans career has also been beset with a variety of issues at every turn.

He served a year-long suspension as New London’s football coach in 2007 for  his role in an altercation with then-Fitch coach Jim Bunocore during an ECC weightlifting competition. Upon Cochran’s return in 2008, New London self-reported a violation in which Cochran allowed eighth graders to participate in varsity football practice and the school was fined.

Cochran eventually coached the Whalers to the 2008 Class SS title, but was fired by the school in April 2009 after a brief turn as the baseball coach resulted in more CIAC sanctions — including a three-year probation on Cochran — for facilitating off-season practices.

Cochran also faced accusations of stealing and illegal recruiting practices by New Britain’s administration, but was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing on both counts by then-attorney general Richard Blumenthal and the CIAC.

Long accused of brazenly running up scores by his peers, the CIAC’s football score management policy enacted in 2006 is often called ‘The Cochran Rule.’

When asked how he considered Cochran’s long history of troubles, Kavey responded, “Here’s a little more history for you: Harding is 9-91 over the last 10 years.”

“We had a chance to hire arguable the best high school football coach in state,” he said. “And when you have a program that has changed coached many times as (Harding) has in last few years, you know you need to take a shot with somebody with that skill and reputation.”

Cochran declined to speak about his past issues.

“I’m not getting into any of that stuff,” he said. “I wouldn’t even worry about the past. You can look at anything you want, you’ll never find one player I’ve coached who didn’t love playing for me.”

Cochran has spent the last few years running his own coaching camp called, ‘The Program,’ while following his son Casey’s budding football career.

Casey was a freshman quarterback on New London’s 2008 state championship team as a freshman and then transferred to Masuk, where he led the Panthers to the 2010 Class L championship. Casey now plays at UConn.

“I think people age pretty well, sometimes,” Kavey said. “And I’m sure that Coach Cochran will go out of his way to fit into the Bridgeport community and to the goals we set with him. The places he’s coached are aligned a lot like Harding. I think it’ll be a nice fit.”

Harding, meanwhile, has won just five games in the past six seasons under three different coaches. It hasn’t had a winning season since a 7-4 record in the final year of Bill Cole’s tenure in 1996.

What do you think of Jack Cochran's hiring at Harding?

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Sean Patrick Bowley

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55 Responses

  1. ugot2bekidding says:

    yes overweight fat slobs make the best ahtletic coaches.. cus they smart

  2. perspective says:

    SPB i DROPPED THIS ONE ON THE NVL BLOG A FEW WEEKS AGO, IF I REMEBER YOU AND KYLE WERE GOING BACK AND FORTH AND YOU POO POOED IT, DON’T BE LIKE ESPN AND ADAM SCHEFTER HAHA JUST KIDDING MAN- MAN i cannot wait to see the speed he is going to have

  3. Haha. Yes, you guys were all over this one. I was skeptical because, well, there have been sooooo many rumors. It was like the Boy crying ‘Wolf!’ Rumors are rumors, sometimes they’re right, many times they’re wrong. I don’t have luxury of posting rumors. I need sources. The problem with this was there was nothing to report until something actually happened. But good stuff from you guys, nonetheless.

  4. Gary Walsh says:

    This is a smart yet challenging move. Bridgeport has a talented athletic pool but keeping kids interested and academically eligible is very difficult. If he can develop a line there are a few possible wins out there but welcome to the FCIAC Jack!! Have fun with Staples New Canaan and Greenwich

  5. Bubba says:

    One less cupcake for the FCIAC big dogs to play. It will take 2 years to turn it around

  6. CongratsJack says:

    Yikes? That’s an easy schedule. They avoid Staples, New Canaan, Greenwich, St. Joes and Trumbull.

  7. bpt football says:

    CT news 12 has reported that football programs at Bassick and Bpt Central have been ‘cut’, effective immediately- is this accurate?

  8. What??? No. That was a joke

  9. Gary Walsh says:

    Jack needs to spend some of his own money and fund raise like a maniac to get their athletic facility in order , has anyone seen that field?? He better hope they actually build a new school and to invest money into what’s already there may be foolish so he’s kind if in a catch 22

  10. FauxRealism says:

    Harding will have a state of the art school and athletic complex in 2015.
    http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Toxins-aside-former-GE-site-slated-for-new-high-4616510.php

  11. Ron B says:

    From a WHHS footballer 66, 67.
    Finally some good news.
    Thx Jack. Good luck.

  12. Gary Walsh says:

    That us still in negotiation, in the meantime will anything be done to the state of disrepair the current field is in??

  13. Observer says:

    Just a few comments after reading the above posts. 1) The schedule is cup-cake and I would not be surprised to see 5-7+ wins in the first year. 2) Harding’s facilities will have no bearing on the team’s success. Just look at Hillhouse’s field. Good football coaches use adversity as motivation. Jack will certainly not let his kid’s use this as an excuse. 3)AD Kavey’s comment about Harding’s record history is… well, troubling. It’s sad to see him prioritize success over morality. Jack’s record speaks for itself. Although he is a successful coach, he has proven time and time again that rules don’t apply to his teams. This is not a good message to send to teenagers. 4) Jack’s lack of ability to address his past suggests that he has not learned from it. At this point in his career, considering the past history of rule breaking and dishonesty, it would speak volumes if he could actually admit to failures in the past. If he could admit to such failures, one might be able to believe he was committed to change going forward. 5)Jack’s comment about his kids loving him as a coach does not, in any way, prove success as a coach. Teenagers are teenagers, and as such, admire both good and poor role-models. 6) I sincerely hope that this fit works. If Jack can separate himself from his past, and invest his talents as a coach honestly and without deviance, then I do believe he can help to develop a strong program at Harding. If that program both promulgates the value of success AND the importance of moral values, then I would consider his placement a success. If winning comes at all costs, this will be another addition to a list of failures.

  14. Gary Walsh says:

    Again we’re talking about Harding here?!? If Jack can embrace the role as structure provider to young inner city kids success will come in truck loads. As for morality, what would bringing up the past really accomplish ?? Lets wait for results and then judge, if he somehow pulls off 8 wins next year everyone will be looking to investigate. If he loses 10 games he’s a failure, seems like a lose lose. Getting kids to play is the challenge

  15. Swoboda says:

    I would have loved my son to have been coached by Jack. He knows the game. He helps kids get into college. If he is allowed to enroll kids throughout the city in Harding, he will have another championship sooner than later. A perfect place for him.

  16. Gary Walsh says:

    It’s by district

  17. fciacfan says:

    I am guessing there are going to be a lot of Bridgeport kids who “move” to the East Side over the next few years….

  18. @fciacfan – Easier than you think

  19. oldschool says:

    i take my hat off the city of bridgeport, warren harding high school, and the hiring committee for making this hire. the kids at harding have been cheated for a long time. this will no longer be the case. jack is a controversial guy but he is a guy who will do right by these kids. he will also force the administration itself to do better by these kids. once again my hat’s off to harding!

  20. Ballfoot says:

    Great hire, Harding finally has a chance to win some games.
    I predict 3-4 wins this year and 6 -7 next.

  21. Kyle says:

    I’ve been saying for Jack to go to bridgeport for years. That place is a gold mine for him

  22. W.H.H.S Football Alumni '85 says:

    I’m very excited about Jack Cochran being named Head Coach of The Blue and Gold, Great Hire and Fit.. I Believe he can turn things around his record speaks for itself ” He’s a Winner”…

  23. swcinsider says:

    big lou m will be wont like this somebody in the fciac
    has a better record then him. oh and by the way may out
    smart mr fciac insider lou

  24. Ryan says:

    Great move by the city of Bridgeport with this hire. His accomplishments on the field speak for themselves and I think 4 or 5 wins this season would be a solid season for Harding. As far as kids “moving” to the East side of town, I have no problem with it. If my child was growing up in Bridgeport and played football, I would absolutely move into Harding’s district. The same way if my child was into music or art, I would do everything in my power to place them in a school that had the better art or music program. I have no problem with kids switching schools if it puts them in a better position to succeed on the field and in the classroom. I think that is even more true in Bridgeport, with a struggling school system. Coach Cochran has a history of sending kids to college, and he’s done it at schools that also have historically struggled academically. Great fit both on and off the field for Harding, and kids in the city of Bridgeport.

  25. Dr. Von Nostran says:

    Has the “Controlled Transfer Policy” been renamed yet?

  26. GoPresidents! says:

    Would love to see the Presidents atop the self-proclaimed Toughest Football Conference in the History of This and All Other Previous Universes.

  27. @Nostran – ‘Controlled Transfer’ … Now there’s a blast from the past. Haven’t heard that phrase since Greg Myers’ acrimonious transfer from Harding to Central way back when.

    (In hoops)

  28. Northern CT Fan says:

    I am happy and excited for the football players at Harding. Finaly, a decision has been made that gives these kids a fighting chance (on the field at least). I hope the crappy field stays just like it is too. Can you imagine all the whining and excuses coming from the “big boys” after they take their beating from Jack’s team on that field? I love it! Good luck Jack and good luck to the players on his new team.

  29. masukparent says:

    Any truth to the rumor that Cochran is bringing in Coach Murphy, as offensive coordinator, and Head Recruiter ? As payback for the Recruiting job at Masuk with Casey ? I’m sure they could get around the rules if they want to, win at any cost.

  30. Gary Walsh says:

    I also heard the Football programs were cut at Bassick and Central

  31. @masukparent – No chance in hell.

  32. @GaryWalsh – no, that was a joke on Twitter that News12 took as fact.

  33. Ignorance says:

    Masuk Parent- that is the most ridiculous comment I have heard in a while. Everyone was happy to see Jack leave Masuk. It was 3 years of hell.

  34. masukparent says:

    # 31 was a joke ! Maybe play home games at Bunnell ? If
    field is’nt just right at Harding.

  35. masukparent says:

    # 35, maybe most people glad to see Jack leave, but a lot
    of Masuk parents, and coaches too, worshipped him like he was Vince
    Lombardi himself.

  36. ??? says:

    He was a parent at Masuk and had very little to do with the
    football team. Why would he be worshiped and why are people happy
    to get rid of him?

  37. former jack player says:

    I for one have played for jack and he is one of the most
    caring guys you could ever meet. He stands by you when know one
    else would. There was kids on my team that couldnt afford dinner at
    night and he would buy it. He is a hard worker and strive to make
    his kids better. His goal is to win but second goal is create
    college educated men. Hate him if you want. And to comment number
    one Jack has lost almost 75 pounds since that picture

  38. Gary Walsh says:

    Did you count the comments?

  39. Josh Boone says:

    Is this really the guy you want to be a possible role model
    to inner city kids? One that has never left a school on his own
    terms, as well as one who has assaulted another coach, but hey, as
    long as they win some games, there won’t be a problem, until he
    makes another one, leaving those kids without a coach….
    again.

  40. I lost in the states to Cochran when he was at
    Bloomfield.He will soon have this team stomping the opposition.I
    hope he bought a big house,he’ll need the room for all the illegal
    recruits soon to be taking his home address! Lol (whatever he
    wins,wish I played for him)

  41. CC says:

    Jack will do the same thing he’s done with the other inner
    ciy kids he’s had. Give them three years to get to the top of the
    FCIAC beating down on perrenial “powerhouses” like New
    Canaan.

  42. Kyle says:

    There would be nothing like Cochran beating Staples New
    Canaan Greenwich by 50. Remember the best team ever played in Class
    ‘S’ coached by Cochran.

  43. fciac sr says:

    Jack is a stand up guy who will turn Harding around. It is
    nice to see when schools hire actual great coaches instead of the
    often young coach with little experience and especially no
    experience dealing with HS age kids. But that is typical of schools
    with a small budget for coaching staff so you get what you pay for.
    It is too funny seeing all the negative comments on Jack and
    Murphy, and what do those two have in common? Yes, they win and
    they win a lot. Kind of like how the catholic schools recruit
    comments!

  44. Rob says:

    @ Former Jack Player, it seems to me that Jack really
    inspired your athletic fervor, he probably should have been as
    rigorous about your academics. Jack Cochran is the inspiration for
    one of the most laughable rules in High School football
    NATIONWIDE(It was a topic that was discussed by MaxPreps during
    Arkell Newsome’s Sophomore Year). He is a “Hot Head” and the types
    of people that are attracted to him creates toxicity while still
    delivering “Wins”. Remember the controversy surrounding his move to
    New London? Incredible that several very good athletes moved into
    the New London area that same year right? If you’re down the FCIAC
    way, lock up your stars, and fence off your Youth Fields, there’s a
    wolf roaming the pasture.

  45. Rob, the real one says:

    Comment #46 was not by me, but there were a a few good points in it.

    On one point I have to difffer though: JC gets his kids into colleges, so he at least makes sure they do enough in the classroom to meet the requirements. Fred Jelks (a starter on the late 90s Bloomfield teams) went to Yale.

    Some of the people above have alluded to it, but I am not sure if people in the FCIAC are fully aware of what is about to hit them. It is over. Repeat: It Is Over.

    JC is easy to hate. He has earned that rep over the years. Look at the track record of this guy. He has won and won big wherever he has coached. He took a huge talent base at New Britain and formed it into a beast of a team. He made Class S Bloomfield into one of the scariest dynasties this state has ever seen. Look up Bloomfield from 1997 to 2001. They were phenomenal. They won five straight titles and not one of the title games was close.

    Did Bloomfield beneift from some transfers? Yes, they sure did. And that is going to happen at Harding as well. If you are a good player, you want to play at a good program. He already has a large base of players at Harding. (And with that weak schedule, I think 8-3 or better this year). But just wait for year two or three. And then sprinkle in some studs who move a few blocks to play for the Presidents, and they are going to beat people up and down the field.

  46. No Way says:

    These kids are inner city thugs, i read something a while back that alot of practices there are only 20 kids there due to having work or watching siblings. These kids RIGHT NOW have no drive, maybe JC can change that, doesnt matter if you have bill bellichick as coach if the players dont care enough to put in the work they will go 1-9 or 0-10 again. Coach murphy went to NM which is a small hick town but its not the inner city so every practice is atteneded by everyone and its just different. As for these 2 programs they have both struggled but NM might as well be a D1 team compared to harding, my prediction this season Harding gets a LITTLe bit better going 2-8 or do they have 11 games 2-9 maybe 3-8 as for New Milford lets go with 6-5 and maybe anywhere up to like 8-3. good luck to both programs this upcoming season!

  47. @No Way – Inner city thugs? That’s an unbelievably broad stroke that completely misses the mark, jeez. A majority of the Harding kids I’ve dealt with over the years are good kids. Yes, they do have a lot of other responsibilities — responsibilities unfathomable to most high schoolers in Fairfield County — that keep them from a full-time commitment. And saying they have no drive is crap, too.

  48. Gary Walsh says:

    Calling kids inner city thugs and then misspelling Bill
    Belichik is pretty classless

  49. Bill Belichick says:

    It’s also pretty embarrassing when you call someone out for misspelling a name, only to spell it wrong yourself.

  50. Gary Walsh says:

    Missed the C no excuse

  51. Tito Correa says:

    Jack wil bring ya to the promiseland this is huge for ya community it dont think it will take a year i expect them to be good write away.

  52. Nlhs ex football players mom says:

    Congrats to jack!
    Did jack make mistakes… Of course.
    Is he a good coach, man and mentor to kids….YES!
    Many of these kids have no father figure or mentor..
    Jack comes to town and dedicates his life to these kids…demands respect… Gives them a purpose to do well in school and life.
    I was aware, before my son, when he was falling below in class or school or if he missed a practice. It was jack who called me, not teachers, not a principal JACK!
    Jack was my eyes and ears and I thank him everyday for all he did for my son.
    So happy to see him back in a city that needs a good man, coach, and mentor!

  53. RAY BROWN says:

    titos comment says it all——how bout a harding education tito?

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