National Football Foundation

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College Football Hall of Fame Coach Carm Cozza Passes Away
The longtime Yale head coach was 87.
Published: 1/4/2018 10:30:00 AM
2002 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Carm Cozza, who served as the head coach at Yale from 1965-96, passed away Jan. 4 at the age of 87.

"Carm Cozza was a Hall of Fame football coach, a man who joined a select few at the pinnacle of his profession," said NFF Vice Chairman Jack Ford, the TV journalist and legal analyst who played defensive back for the Bulldogs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "But he was so much more than that to those of us who played for him. There is an old proverb that states: 'When a student is ready, a teacher will appear.' Carm Cozza was that teacher for hundreds of young Yale football players.

"A fierce competitor, a natural leader, and skilled technician of the game, he was as proud of the Academic All-Americans who played for him as he was of the football All-Americans; as proud of the Rhodes Scholars who wore the Yale blue and white as he was of the players who went on to become NFL Pro-Bowlers.

"The winner of 10 Ivy League championships during his 32 years as Head Coach, he reveled in the success of his players off the field as well, often claiming that he was 'the best pre-law and pre-med coach in the country.' When I arrived as a freshman at Yale, having been raised by a single-mother, I was blessed to find not just my coach and 'teacher,' but also a man whom I would be proud to call my friend and father-figure for more than 4 decades. Carm Cozza was the best that this nation, and this game that he loved so much, could ever offer."

From 1965 to 1996, Coach Cozza compiled a 179-119-5 (.599) record in 303 games with class and dignity while earning the ever-lasting endearment of his players and the utmost respect from his opponents.

The winningest coach in Ivy League history, Cozza led his teams to 10 Ivy Championships and 19 winning seasons. Mixed in with all those wins was a famous, 16-game win streak between 1967 and 1968 that initially made his name synonymous with Yale Football. He coached fellow College Football Hall of Famer Dick Jauron and seven NFF National Scholar-Athletes.

Yale’s legendary mentor coached in numerous all-star games. An assistant coach for the 1970 East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto, Calif., he served as a head coach in the 1972 contest. Cozza also served as defensive coordinator in the 1981 Blue-Gray Classic in Mobile, Ala. When the 1989 Ivy League All-Stars went to Japan for the first Epson Ivy Bowl, Cozza was the head coach of the Ancient Eight in its victory over the Japanese College All-Stars.

Cozza was born June 10, 1930, in Parma, Ohio. In high school, he was a tremendous athlete, earning 11 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He attended college at Miami (Ohio), playing football under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coaches Ara Parseghian and Woody Hayes. He saw triple duty as a Miami quarterback, running back and defensive back.

On the baseball diamond, he pitched and played the outfield, posting a 1.50 earned run average and a career batting average of .388. He briefly spent time in the minor league organizations of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox before taking a coaching position at Gilmour Academy in Ohio.

In 1956, he was appointed head coach of the freshman squad at Miami, and in 1961, he joined the varsity staff. Two years later, he accepted a job as an assistant coach at Yale under head coach John Pont. When Pont resigned two years later in 1965, Cozza was named head coach. At the time of the announcement, Yale Athletics Director Delaney Kiphuth said, “the future of Yale football is in very capable hands." He could not have been more accurate.

A recipient of a master’s degree in education from Miami in 1959, Cozza had administrative experience as well. In 1976, he was appointed Yale Athletics Director with the expectation that he would leave coaching after a few years of performing in both capacities. Instead, Cozza decided to give up the director’s position in 1977 and remain the football coach.

Since he retired from coaching in 1996, Cozza served as Special Assistant to the Director of Athletics at Yale while also handling the radio color commentary (1998-2016) for Yale football. Throughout his 54-year tenure at the university, Cozza was a guiding, caring and thoughtful mentor to hundreds of athletics department employees.

Cozza, one of the fabled “Cradle of Coaches” from Miami University, earned a George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award from Yale in 2009 and was the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Distinguished American recipient in 1992. Cozza was also instrumental in raising money for the renovation of the Yale Bowl.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Cozza, daughters Kristen (Dave) Powell, Kathryn (Anthony) Tutino and Karen (John) Pollard and grandchildren Michael and Mark Powell, Elizabeth Tutino and Eric and Christopher Pollard. Cozza was pre-deceased by four sisters, Ange, Pat, Theresa and Josephine and his parents, James and Carbita Cozza.

The services will be private, and a memorial celebration of his life is being planned for the near future.

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