MIDDLETOWN — Tony Jaskot has always fashioned himself a “down and dirty” athletic director. By his definition, that’s a leader who is willing to help a program beyond the job description, even if it means folding chairs or sweeping the gym floor.
“I did whatever was needed to do to get the job done,” he said.
Recently, Xavier High School converted an aged storage closet into a bright space now used for cardio workouts, crosstraining and meeting time, and connected it to its weight room. Wednesday, the new area — which Jaskot helped to paint, of course — was dedicated as the “Tony Jaskot Fitness Room.”
“This is overwhelming,” an emotional Jaskot told a gathering of family, friends and a host of Xavier colleagues. “It’s not the actual naming of the room, it’s the thought that people were kind enough to think of doing this that is so special to me.”
The 67-year-old Jaskot’s connection to Xavier spans five decades as a student, coach, educator and AD. Wednesday’s ceremony felt like the summit of his journey, because the coming school year, which starts Sept. 4, will be his last on the job.
“You look at the people who have come through Xavier, and there aren’t many, if any, who have had the loyalty and devotion to the school that Tony has,” Art Kohs said. “He is certainly deserving of this. He was one of the building blocks at Xavier, there is no question about that.”
Xavier has had only two athletic directors since opening its doors in 1963 — Kohs and Jaskot. Jaskot has long considered Kohs and Larry McHugh, Xavier’s first football coach, as “second fathers” who helped to nurture him along the way. Jaskot succeeded McHugh after the 1983 season. He was Kohs’ longtime assistant and ascended when Kohs retired in 1997.
“Being the second football coach at Xavier and being hired as the second AD in school history — I think I’m most proud of that,” Jaskot said. “I replaced two legends. That people thought that highly of me to take on those roles, yeah, that’s something to be proud of.”
His recollections Wednesday included a recounting of how, shortly after returning to Xavier in 1973 after graduating from Southern Connecticut State, where he also played quarterback, he came to teach a typing class. It was one of his first responsibilities outside of football at Xavier and one Kohs volunteered him to fill, he said.
“I typed seven words per minute, with 50 percent mistakes,” Jaskot said, drawing lots of laughter. “I’ve done it all here, but I’m still not good at typing.”
Jaskot became McHugh’s offensive coordinator starting with the ’73 season, with the Falcons in the midst of a 34-game winning streak that became part of Connecticut high school lore. Out of those teams came college stars Greg Woods, Anthony Brown, Clint Gaffney, Luke Gaffney, Jim Hofher, Jay Hickey and Phil Murphy, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1980.
The following season, Xavier went undefeated and was voted the No. 1 team in the state. Two years later, the CIAC instituted its playoff system so championships would be decided on the field.
“The 1968 team that Tony was on, though, that was the one that helped set us off on that eight-, nine-year run of success. He helped us get that started,” McHugh told the Press on Wednesday.
After 10 seasons under McHugh, Jaskot succeeded him and was head coach for 11 seasons. He went 53-57-1 during a time when the Hartford County Conference dissolved and was replaced by the ACC. The ACC was a stopgap for parochial schools and made it tough on Xavier and others to fill a full schedule of games until the formidable SCC was created. The Falcons ended up playing very good programs — some out of state — that few others would agree to play.
“We had to beg and borrow to get games,” Kohs recalled.
In Jaskot’s 20-plus years as AD, Xavier has won a number of state championships in football, cross country and other sports, and has introduced new programs including ice hockey, volleyball, lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee. He has mentored Kohs’ sons Mike, who coaches Xavier basketball and golf, and Tim, who has gone on to great success at Mercy as its AD and basketball coach, as well as Dan DeConti, who put Xavier’s hockey team on the map and is now the assistant AD.
Meanwhile, Jaskot’s commitment to Xavier and his family are interconnected. “My family is Xavier’s family and the Xavier family is our family,” as he describes it.
His wife, Donna, has long worked in its administrative offices and their sons have made distinct impacts as alums — Greg is offensive coordinator under coach Andy Guyon and an educator; Dan runs leadership workshops there as managing partner of Empower Leadership Sports & Adventure in town; and Matt, an accomplished pianist who teaches at Holy Cross College, rewrote the music to Xavier’s alma mater.
“Tony’s dedication and love for Xavier and his family are big to him,” McHugh said. “His whole life has been spent around this area. He’s just been very comfortable here. Everything for him is wrapped around Middletown and his family. That’s Tony. He’s a great individual and role model for kids.”
The recognition in Jaskot’s career goes well beyond the entry to the Falcons’ fitness room. He was inducted in the Xavier Hall of Honors in 1996 and the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2013, the 50th anniversary of Xavier, Jaskot was the recipient of one of its first Lifetime Service awards as well as the St. Francis Xavier Award for outstanding support of the school community.
Xavier’s leadership over the years has seen fit to name its new facilities for its most accomplished men: McHugh for the football field, Kohs for the gymnasium, Rich Magner for the baseball diamond and Bob Michalski for the outdoor track.
And now a nod to Jaskot. Notre Dame has its Four Horsemen, so you could say Xavier has five.
“Tony is a very humble individual, and it’s always ‘he’ or ‘they.’ There’s never an ‘I’ situation for Tony,” McHugh said. “Everything he has done has had a positive influence on the school.”