Carmen “Carm” Cozza, who coached Yale to 10 Ivy League football titles over 32 years as well as the famed 29-29 tie with Harvard, died Thursday. He was 87.
Cozza coached the Bulldogs from 1965 to 1996 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He retired as the winningest coach in Ivy League history, with a career record of 179-119-5, including an undefeated 1968 season that ended in a famous 29-29 tie with Harvard.
Harvard scored 16 points in the final minute for the tie. The headline in the Harvard Crimson student newspaper read, “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.” Cozza called the outcome “devastating” — the “worst loss of my life, even though it was a tie.”
Cozza had 19 winning seasons at Yale and between 1974 and 1981 won seven of eight Ivy crowns.
“He was an inspiration to all he coached and the best representative Yale could ever hope to have,” said Brian Dowling, the quarterback of the 1968 team. “Even though he was only 15 years older than me, he was like a surrogate father to me as I lost mine when I was 19.”
Cozza was born in Parma, Ohio, and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami of Ohio, where he played quarterback, running back and defensive back for legendary coaches Ara Parseghian and Woody Hayes. He also ran track and played baseball, leading to a brief stint in the minor leagues with affiliates of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
Cozza began coaching with Miami’s freshmen football team in 1956 and was promoted to the varsity staff in 1961. He left with coach John Pont in 1963 to become Yale’s backfield coach and succeeded Pont as head coach two years later.
After his retirement, Cozza served as a special assistant to the athletic director at Yale. He also handled the radio color commentary for Yale football games through the 2016 season but was unable to continue this fall.
Pat Ruwe, who was Yale’s football captain in 1983 and is now president of the Yale Football Association, said the football program has lost a “piece of our foundation.”
“Coach was once called Yale’s greatest teacher and was the ultimate role model to those young men fortunate enough to play for him,” he said.
Cozza, who lived in Orange, Connecticut, is survived by his wife, Jean, three daughters and five grandchildren.
“Coach Carm Cozza was one of our nation’s outstanding role models and leaders of young men,” said Tom Beckett, Yale’s athletic director. “His legacy will have a lasting influence the Yale community and beyond.”
The school said funeral services will be private, but a public memorial is planned.