NEW HAVEN, January 4 -- Carmen Cozza, who served as head football coach at Yale University for three decades, died on Thursday morning at the age of 87. Cozza, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, led Yale to 10 Ivy League championships and compiled a career record of 179-119-5 (.599) in 303 games, winning the most games in league history.
Cozza is still the winningest coach in Ivy League history. Cozza led his teams to 10 Ivy League 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.
The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance awarded Cozza a Gold Key in 1976 and he most recently attended a CSWA banquet in 2015 (photo, right) when one of his former players, John Pagliaro was honored with a Gold Key.
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 (OH), playing football under the tutelage of 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 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 Yale Bowl.
He is survived by his wife, Jean Cozza (Orange, CT), daughters Kristen Powell and her husband Dave from Orange; Kathryn Tutino and her husband, Anthony from Madison; and Karen (John) Pollard and her husband, John, from Middlebury and grandchildren Michael and Mark Powell, Elizabeth Tutino and Eric and Christopher Pollard. Carm Cozza was pre-deceased by four sisters, Ange, Pat, Theresa and Josephine (Parma, OH) 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.
Tom Beckett, Yale Athletics Director
"Coach Carm Cozza was one of our nation's outstanding role models and leaders of young men. His legacy will have a lasting influence on the Yale community and beyond."
Dr. Pat Ruwe '83, Yale football captain and president of Yale Football Association
"For over 50 years, legendary coach Carm Cozza represented Yale football and his community with unmatched honor, dignity, and class. Ferociously competitive yet humble and unfailingly loyal, Coach was once called Yale's greatest teacher and was the ultimate role model to those young men fortunate enough to play for him."
"I was blessed to stay involved with Coach after my playing days as his team doctor, chauffeur, and friend, and I saw up close the real man, which is where his star shined even more brightly," said Ruwe. "There was no finer human being who ever walked the sidelines or wore the Yale Blue. We will miss you Coach. You were loved."
Tony Reno, current head coach of Yale football
"Words can't express how much Coach Cozza has influenced me as a coach and a person since I met him. When I was fortunate enough to become the head coach of Yale football, we became very close. He became the mentor that everyone would dream to have."
Jack Siedlecki, former Yale football head coach
"Following the death of his broadcast partner Dick Galiette, I invited Carm to ride up front in the team bus with me to away games. I will always cherish the memories of those conversations, many of which had nothing to do with football. He was all about family and football. Just a wonderful man."
Ron Vaccaro '04, radio voice of Yale football
"Carm was the ultimate gentleman. I can't think of a more impactful leader. He was an excellent teacher because he never stopped being a student of life. He was curious, very well-read, and always came up with the perfect one-liner at just the right time. He leaves a shining example for all of us on how to live an inspired life in service to others."
Compiled with information from Yale University. Lead photo courtesy James Thompson, Yale University