NEW BRITAIN — Jack Cochran wants to be a head coach again and he wants to do it at a place he helped bring back to prominence in Connecticut high school football.
Cochran, who led New Britain High School to three Class LL state titles the early 2000s, officially put his name in for the Hurricanes’ vacant head coaching position. He last coached during the 2018 season as an assistant at Killingly.
“Just to be very honest with you, the four years I spent in New Britain were the four best years of my life,” Cochran told The Herald. “It’s an amazing place. It was a great place to live, to coach and to teach. I really enjoyed it.”
New Britain is currently looking for a replacement for Tebucky Jones, who decided to step down on Jan. 16 after nine seasons leading the program to spend more time with his family.
“I just told a couple of close friends [that I was applying]. I wasn’t sure at that time. But as it got closer to the deadline, I thought there are a lot of kids that need the right influence in their lives,” Cochran said.
Cochran is among the most successful high school football coaches in the state’s history and is known for elevating programs into regular title contenders. He owns a 163-31-2 career record (.835 winning percentage) during stops at Bloomfield (1992-2000), New Britain (2001-2004), New London (2005-2008) and Harding (2013). He has coached in 14 state championship games.
He won four straight championships with Bloomfield, from 1997-2000, before leading the Hurricanes to three titles in four seasons, in 2001, 2003 and 2004, and coached New London to the Class SS title in 2008.
During Cochran’s tenure in New Britain, the Hurricanes went 43-3 overall.
“For me, it’s really simple,” said Justise Hairston, who played for Cochran’s 2001 title team and later played at Rutgers and CCSU. “He’s a proven winner. He puts kids in college and he has high expectations. He puts structures in place — he demands them — for kids to be successful.”
“All those kids that played for him and now have kids would want their sons to play for Jack,” Hairston added. “Everyone I’ve talked to wants him back. I wouldn’t let my son play for anyone else.”
Cochran’s teams were also among the highest scoring offenses in the state. His programs own four of the top six points per game season records, with New Britain at 60.3 points per game in 2002 first, Bloomfield at 60.1 in 1999 second, New Britain at 56.5 in 2004 fifth and Bloomfield at 55.3 in 1998 sixth.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have struggled since Cochran’s departure, having reached the Class LL playoffs just twice since 2007 — 2014 and 2018 — and posted an 84-67 regular season record, 84-69 overall. Both postseason appearances were under Jones’ direction and both ended in first-round exits to teams that went on to play for the state title.
“People want this job, but don’t know what it takes,” Hairston said. “You have someone who has been here before. He knows what it takes and he’s proven. He’s someone that galvanizes the community. New Britain High is going to win. It may not be the first year, but they’re going to win.”
But Cochran has also had his share of detractors from various issues that have arisen over his coaching career. He departed New Britain following “alleged improprieties,” according to media reports at the time. New London suspended him for the 2006 season for allegedly throwing a punch at a rival coach after an Eastern Connecticut Conference weightlifting competition.
In the fall of 2008, the CIAC fined New London after Cochran violated a rule by allowing some eighth-graders to take part in a varsity football practice. In the spring of 2009, Cochran was hired as New London’s baseball coach and was found guilty of breaking a CIAC rule by assisting in offseason practices by opening up the gym to baseball players. The CIAC placed him on three-year probation. New London soon after relieved him of his football coaching position.
There’s also the famed “Cochran Rule.”
In 2005, New London beat Griswold 90-0 and won four other games by 50 or more points. The following year the CIAC instituted a one-game suspension for any coach whose team won by 50 points or more.
After a short time away from coaching, Cochran resurfaced as the head coach of Harding in Bridgeport for the 2013 season. But he lasted just half the season, citing health reasons when stepping down. After several years out of the game, he joined the Killingly staff as an assistant coach in 2018.
“Jack needs to be the guy to come back,” Hairston said. “Is he perfect? No. But I saw what he demanded. I know what it takes to play for him and what he is going to do for New Britain. I just hope they make the right decision.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cochran’s New Britain tenure:
2001: 11-1 (Beat Greenwich for Class LL title)
2002: 9-1 (Lost to Greenwich in Class LL semifinals)
2003: 12-0 (Beat West Haven for Class LL title)
2004: 11-1 (Beat Greenwich for Class LL title)
Since Cochran’s departure:
Total: 84-67 (84-69 overall)
* reached Class LL-Large playoffs, lost to NFA 30-6
^ reached Class LL playoffs, lost to Greenwich 49-13
1993: Lost SS championship
1994: Lost SS championship
1995: Lost S championship
1996: Lost S championship
1997: Won S championship
1998: Won S championship
1999: Won S championship
2000: Won M championship
New London Tenure:
2005: Lost S championship
2007: Lost S championship
2008: Won SS championship