SCHENECTADY — Jon Poppe has been named the new head coach for the Union College football program, the school announced Thursday.
Poppe, who will begin his tenure Friday, spent the past five seasons as the secondary and special teams coach at Harvard. He replaces Jeff Behrman, who stepped down in December following seven seasons at Union to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, John Carroll University.
“I am very excited to introduce Jon as the next head coach of the Union football program,” Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin said in a news release. “Throughout this highly competitive process, Jon clearly demonstrated an understanding of the role and his responsibilities as the leader of this program that quickly brought him to the top of our list. His experience at elite academic institutions with competitive football programs along with his extensive experience recruiting well-rounded student-athletes make him a great fit for our College. That background will allow him to build on a very strong foundation and provide our student athletes the opportunity to succeed at the highest levels in the classroom, on the field and in the community.
“I look forward to welcoming Jon, his wife, Anna, and his daughter, Ava, into the Union community and seeing the positive impact he and his family will have on this program and our College.”
Poppe, the 34th head coach in Union football history, has more than a decade of coaching experience in the Ivy League. He built Harvard’s special teams into one of the best in the nation during his second stint with the Crimson, ranking third in the FCS in blocked punts and fourth in blocked kicks this past season.
Harvard’s defensive backfield flourished under Poppe, with the Crimson defense ranking in the top-five nationally in rushing defense each of the past two seasons and finishing eighth nationally in interceptions in 2021.
Poppe was named the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston’s FBS/FCS Assistant Coach of the Year in 2020 after helping Harvard’s defense lead the nation in rushing defense and finishing third in interceptions.
“I would like to thank the people who have entrusted the role of head football coach at Union College to me — President David Harris, Vice President for Student Affairs Annette Diorio, Athletic Director Jim McLaughlin, and the rest of the Union faculty, staff and student-athletes that led this hiring process,” Poppe said in the release. “My family and I could not be more excited to begin this journey as the head coach at a school like Union. As a first-time head coach, representing such a prestigious institution with a long standing tradition of success on and off the field is truly humbling.”
Prior to his second stint at Harvard, Poppe led the secondary and served as recruiting coordinator at Columbia, where he spent three years working under Union Hall of Famer Al Bagnoli on a staff that included Union football’s all-time wins leader, John Audino.
“Jon is a great fit for Union College,” Bagnoli said in the release. “He is a passionate, energetic and a very hard working individual. Additionally, he is an excellent recruiter whom will relate very well to the type of student-athletes that Union College is trying to attract. I feel he and his family will fit in very well with the entire Union College athletic family and they will be great ambassadors for Union Football. I am personally very excited for him and his family and feel very confident he will continue the great tradition that has defined Dutchman Football since the early 1980s.”
Poppe previously coached at Harvard from 2011-14, following a season on the staff at the College of the Holy Cross in 2010. A 2007 Williams College graduate, Poppe also served as an intern assistant coach at King’s (Pa.) College in 2007, then spent two years as a graduate assistant at Springfield College.
He takes over a Union program that rebounded from 0-10 in the season before Behrman’s arrival to go 42-20 under his tenure, including a Liberty League title in 2019. In 2022, the Dutchmen finished with a 6-4 record.
“I am looking forward to hitting the ground running and completing a great recruiting class to add to an experienced team,” Poppe added. “During my career, I have gained a lot of experience recruiting young people with high caliber character, from a variety of backgrounds, who want to excel on and off the field. My goal is to bring in young people that desire to not only be great student-athletes, but have a positive impact on the College community and the surrounding community as well. It is my belief that Union College is an environment and experience that any young person should thrive in.”
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