William F. “Bill” Mignault, who started the football program at Ledyard and was its only coach for 42 years, eventually becoming the all-time winningest coach in Connecticut history, has died, the school announced Wednesday. He was 90 years old.
Mignault won a state-record 321 games at Ledyard and retired at age 78, several months after winning his fourth state championship in December, 2007 — a 21-14 victory over Berlin in the Class M final at Central Connecticut State University.
“Ledyard High School is sad to announce the passing of an icon: William F. Mignault,” Ledyard athletic director and assistant principal Jim Buonocore, who succeeded Mignault at Ledyard as head coach in 2008, said in a statement on Twitter Wednesday. “He was a hall of fame educator, coach and administrator. He will be deeply missed by generations of Colonels.
“Once a Colonel, Always Colonel.”
Ledyard High School is sad to announce the passing of an icon: William F Mignault. He was a hall of fame educator, coach and administrator. He will be deeply missed by generations of Colonels. Once a Colonel, Always a Colonel. #LHScolonelpride pic.twitter.com/864LLwlMub
— Jim Buonocore (@ledyardsports) October 2, 2019
Born May 18, 1929, Bill Mignault was a graduate of and played football for Killingly High School and the University of Connecticut.
Mignault served in the United States Air Force and coached his first football team with Don Klosterman, the eventual general manager of the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams, while stationed in Germany.
Mignault began his distinguished high school coaching career as an assistant at Norwich Free Academy and got his first head job at Waterford in 1958.
He won 18 games at Waterford in five seasons before leaving and establishing the program at Ledyard in 1963, first as a junior varsity outfit and then as varsity in 1966. He also served as athletic director there.
Under his guidance, Ledyard won state championships in 1986, 1991, 1993 and 2007. He coached his sons and then his grandsons at the school, most of whom wore his No. 12 jersey when they played for him.
He became the state’s all-time winningest coach on Oct. 20, 2001 when Ledyard defeated SMSA of Hartford, 47-6, eclipsing former Trumbull coach Jerry McDougall.
In that game, Mignault’s grandson, B.K. Mignault, threw a touchdown pass to his other grandson, Patrick Mignault. He also coached a third grandson, Marc, who also played quarterback and helped his grandfather win his final game in the 2007 state final. He caught the winning, 22-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option in the fourth quarter to beat Berlin.
Bill Mignault first coached and then coached alongside his two sons, Billy and Brian, and saw a number of fathers-and-sons come through his program at Ledyard.
“I’ll brag and say I played for the most successful coach in Connecticut football history,” B.K. Mignault would say after his grandfather’s record-breaking victory in 2001. “And then I’ll go one better. I’ll tell people he’s my grandfather.”
Mignault held the state’s career victory record until 2014, when he was eclipsed by West Haven coach Ed McCarthy. Mignault’s final record as head coach was 321-130-5 and he currently sits at No. 3 behind McCarthy and New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli.
Overall, Mignault was 303-115-2 at Ledyard. His Colonels also won 10 Eastern Connecticut Conference titles during his 42 years as head coach.
He was inducted into Ledyard’s inaugural Football Hall of Fame in 2011, Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991, a Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance Gold Key recipient in 2005. He was also UConn’s Red O’Neill Award recipient and a Region I Coach of the Year.
The football field at Ledyard High School was named in his honor while he was still coaching.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia, whom he met at the Killingly High School junior prom and was married to for 66 years until his death, as well as his sons, his daugter, Pamela, and numerous grand- and great-grandchildren.
“Coaching Ledyard Football has been very rewarding,” he said at the time of his retirement. “We have had many exciting, challenging and winning seasons. I have had hard-working players and loyal assistant coaches, including my sons Billy and Brian, with the ability to play and coach football with mental hardness, intensity, and a complete team attitude. I believe that our program has been successful because of our ‘one heartbeat’ philosophy both on and off the field.
“I consider all Ledyard Football Players and coaches as family. Once a Ledyard Colonel, always a Ledyard Colonel! I wish the best of luck to future Ledyard Football teams. I know they will continue to play hard, intense Ledyard Football and make our school and community proud!”
Memorial services have yet to be announced. This post will be updated.