This story has been updated to reflect the latest development.
Carmen Louis Cozza, the winningest coach in Ivy League football history and former Yale head coach, died of cancer on Jan 4. He was 87.
Cozza served as Yale’s head coach from 1965 to 1996, and retired with a record of 179–119–5. During his 32-year tenure leading the football team, he captured 10 Ivy League titles. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
“Coach Carm Cozza was one of our nation’s outstanding role models and leaders of young men,” Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said in a University press release. “His legacy will have a lasting influence on the Yale community and beyond.”
As an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio, Cozza, an Ohio native, earned a varsity letter for three years in both football and baseball. After graduating in 1952, he played minor league baseball for teams affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
He returned to Miami University in 1956 to become the head coach of the freshman football team and eventually a varsity assistant coach. But when Miami head coach John Pont, a former roommate and teammate of Cozza’s, was appointed head coach at Yale, Cozza joined him in New Haven as the backfield coach for the Bulldogs.
Yale named Cozza head coach in 1965 after Pont resigned to lead the Indiana University football team. During his tenure, the American Football Coaches Association named Cozza District Coach of the Year seven times, and he led the Bulldogs to 19 winning seasons and a 16-game winning streak between 1967 and 1968. He served briefly as Yale’s Director of Athletics in 1976.
Cozza was also a mentor for his players off the field. His teams included 118 All-Ivy League players, five National Football Foundation Scholar Athletes and seven Rhodes Scholars. In a 1971 column in the News, he described “today’s athlete” as a “more well rounded individual with more interests but every bit as good or better on the gridiron.”
Current head coach Tony Reno said in a University press release that Cozza “built the great family” of today’s football team. And former football captain under Cozza and current president of the Yale Football Association Pat Ruwe ’83 described Cozza as “ferociously competitive yet humble and unfailingly loyal” and as “Yale’s greatest teacher.”
Cozza received the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Distinguished American award in 1992, just four years before he retired from coaching. After retirement, he directed the radio color commentary for Yale football and served as special assistant to the director of athletics. He received Yale’s George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award in 2009.
Cozza is survived by his wife, Jean Cozza; his daughters Kristen Powell, Kathryn Tuino and Karen Pollard; and grandchildren Michael and Mark Powell, Elizabeth Tutino and Eric and Christopher Pollard. Born to James and Carbita Cozza, he had four sisters, all of whom have passed away: Ange, Pat, Theresa and Josephine.
Yale Athletics said in the press release that it plans to host a memorial service to celebrate Cozza.
Hailey Fuchs | firstname.lastname@example.org