“I had the opportunity to go in a different direction, but working with coach Bob Casey at Merced College was definitely the best fit for me,” Cozart said. “I can work on further developing my skills professionally while being able to take on a new challenge in helping to re-establish a winning tradition at Merced College.
“I’m very excited about not only my future, but for the Blue Devils, as well.”
Cozart will coach outside linebackers and safeties and be involved as a special teams coordinator.
The 32-year-old announced his resignation as Patterson High’s varsity football coach Dec. 15, after leading the Tigers to a program record for most wins in a season during its 11-2 campaign in 2010. The Tigers also notched their first 10-game winning streak and claimed the Western Athletic Conference championship, the school’s first outright league title since 1968.
Cozart, who graduated from Patterson High in 1996, coached linebackers and worked as a special teams coordinator for the College of San Mateo prior to helming the Tigers’ football program. He joins the Blue Devils coaching staff after eight years as Patterson’s coach.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to get back to the college level and focus on one side of the ball and position,” Cozart said. “It’s a great chance for me, as well, to be able to still be connected to the area and high school football, since I will be able to recruit athletes from teams and coaches that I am familiar with.”
Patterson High athletic director Dave Klein said he is happy for Cozart in his new opportunity.
“(Cozart) has worked very hard for this, and I hope that it is the best move for him,” Klein said. “He definitely turned our program around, and now it is time for us and the new coach, whoever it might be, to continue the tradition.”
The search for a Patterson varsity football coach can now begin, Klein said.
“We needed to wait for Rob to make his decision before we begin our search,” Klein said. “Now that we know, we need to sit down and decide which direction we will take, and this depends a lot on whether we have a teaching position available. Our administration can only answer that.”
Klein has no specific timetable to find Cozart’s successor and said it’s vital to get it right.
“We know that this is a very important position to fill, and we just want to make the best choice without waiting too long,” Klein said.
After taking over the controls in 2003, Cozart revived the Patterson High program, leading the Tigers to the playoffs the past six seasons and qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals on five of those occasions.
Cozart hopes he can make the same kind of impact in Merced. Last season, the Blue Devils were 2-8 overall and 1-4 in Golden Gate Conference play.
“I understand that Merced College is in a rebuilding mode, but that is not new to me,” Cozart said. “I am ready for yet another challenge.”
Cozart will continue to teach physical education at Patterson High for the remainder of the school year, as well as 2011-12.