New Britain’s Board of Education on Friday publicly rebuked Mayor Erin Stewart’s support for the re-hire of former coach Jack Cochran as head football coach, calling her share of Cochran’s application “unfair and negligent.”
The terse statement comes just two days after Stewart, the 32-year old three-term Republican mayor of New Britain since 2013, Tweeted photos of Cochran’s application for the vacant New Britain job, saying “Ohhh snap – look who applied for the @NHSCT football job!” and followed with the hashtag #bringbackjack
— Mayor Erin Stewart (@erinstewartct) February 5, 2020
And Cochran himself confirmed his desire to regain the job he last held in 2004 to The Herald, saying, “…The four years I spent in New Britain were the four best years of my life. It’s an amazing place. It was a great place to live, to coach and to teach. I really enjoyed it.”
Former New Britain all-state running back Justice Hairston, who led the Hurricanes to Cochran’s first state title there in 2001, also told the Herald he backed Cochran’s return.
But New Britain’s board of education apparently was not amused, declaring that Stewart’s public support for Cochran “tainted” the hiring process while citing its policy of equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination in hiring.
“Employment law prevents elected Board of Education members or staff from engaging in public discussion of the pros or cons of individual candidates for a position within the district,” it said in a statement released Friday. “…The New Britain Board of Education takes pride in fairness, equity, and following our policies and the law.
“While we understand that there may be applicants for the posted Football Coach position who have past or present ties to the community, we need to be clear there are many factors search committees must consider. We do not believe it is ethical to announce and encourage public support of a candidate in a process that has merely begun, especially when there are clear guidelines in place.”
“big deal. lol” Stewart responded on Twitter to Hartford Courant sports editor Dan Brechlin’s Tweet of the Board’s complaint, and then defended her position and Cochran in an interview with reporter Shawn McFarland.
big deal. Lol
— Mayor Erin Stewart (@erinstewartct) February 7, 2020
Stewart’s father, Tim, was New Britain mayor and she was a former student of Cochran’s at New Britain during his stint there as head coach.
Cochran, who is 163-31-2 with eight state championships as a head coach, went 43-3 and won three state championships in just four seasons at New Britain from 2001-2004. He left in March of 2004 to take the head coaching job at New London amid rumors that he would be terminated at New Britain, despite receiving a one-year renewal by the school board the month before.
He was also investigated, but eventually cleared, for accusations of fund raising improprieties while at New Britain. At the time, Cochran had his own set of grievances against the school district, first for moving him to the middle school over a “technicality” and also saying his relationship with athletic director and former football coach Len Corto had deteriorated.
Cochran ultimately went on to win a state championship at New London in 2008, but also was suspended there in 2006 — the year the CIAC instituted its old score management policy which was aimed at curbing Cochran’s penchant for running up scores on opponents — after allegedly hitting then-Fitch coach Jim Buonocore during an ECC weightlifting competition.
The school ultimately fired him in 2009 after self-reporting illegal off-season practices during his short-lived stint as baseball coach, which earned Cochran a three-year coaching probation from the CIAC.
His last head coaching job was at Harding of Bridgeport in 2013, which lasted just four games due to what Cochran said were ongoing health issues. He returned to coaching in 2018 as an assistant at Killingly.