SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Following an extensive national search, Jon Poppe has been named the 34th coach of the Union College football program, Director of Athletics Jim McLaughlin ’93 announced on Thursday.
Poppe (pronounced POP-ee), who begins his tenure at Union on Jan. 27, has spent the past five years as secondary and special teams coach at Harvard University, where his units were consistently among the best in the country at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Series (FCS) level.
“I am very excited to introduce Jon as the next head coach of the Union football program,” McLaughlin said. “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 brings more than a decade of coaching experience in the Ivy League to Union. Poppe has built Harvard into one of the country’s top special teams units during his second tenure in Cambridge, ranking third in the FCS in blocked punts and fourth in blocked kicks during the 2022 season. He was recognized by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston as the FBS/FCS Assistant Coach of the Year in 2020 after helping the Crimson defensive unit lead the nation in rushing defense and rank third in interceptions. In 2019, Harvard led the FCS in blocked kicks (9) and blocked punts (7), while ranking top-20 nationally in punt return defense and net punting.
The Harvard secondary also enjoyed great success under Poppe’s leadership. The defensive unit ranked among the top five in the country in rushing defense in each of the last two campaigns, while the Crimson ranked eighth in the FCS in interceptions during the 2021 season as well.
“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. “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.”
Before his second stint at Harvard, Poppe led the secondary and served as recruiting coordinator at Columbia University, where he spent three years working under legendary coach and Union Hall of Famer Al Bagnoli on a staff that included Union football’s all-time leader in wins, John Audino.
“Jon is a great fit for Union College,” said Bagnoli. “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 began his time in the Ivy League as the assistant secondary coach at Harvard from 2011-14, coming after one season as the assistant secondary coach at the College of the Holy Cross in 2010. He began his collegiate coaching career at the Division III level, serving as a graduate assistant coach for two years at Springfield College (2008-09) after one year as an intern assistant coach at King’s (Pa.) College (2007).
Poppe is a 2007 graduate of Williams College, spending three seasons as a starter in the secondary. As a senior, he was named an All-East Region honoree from Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and a first-team All-NESCAC pick in helping the Ephs to an undefeated 8-0 season.
Poppe takes over a Union program that boasts a rich tradition of success and will be welcoming just its fourth coach in the last 42 years. Since 1982, Union football has a combined record of 280-128 (.686) and boasts 38 non-losing records over that span, including two Stagg Bowl appearances, eight conference championships and 12 NCAA Tournament berths.
“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.”