Role Model Takes Helm of Football Team


familiar face has been hired as Westfield State’s new head football coach.

“I am pleased to announce Pete Kowalski as the first full-time football coach in program history,” said Westfield State University Athletics Director Richard Lenfest last May when he made the official announcement to hire the Owls’ longtime assistant coach.

“Pete has the respect of our student athletes, and he has distinguished himself as a top defensive coordinator in the region. He has been extremely loyal to Westfield State, and I know he’s excited to take over the program. I’m looking forward to his leading our program,” he said.

Kowalski, a Westfield State assistant coach for the past 18 years, had been named the interim head coach last December, when Steve Marino retired after coaching the Owls for 24 seasons. Once the position was elevated from part-time to full-time status, Lenfest and the search committee did not have to look very far to find its head coach.

“I am eager and excited to begin this new era in Westfield State football,” said Kowalski, the first full-time head coach in the 33-year history of the Westfield State varsity football program. “The selection process allowed me the opportunity to crystalize in my mind what I wanted this program to be. Coach Marino made being a head coach look easy; I know there is going to be a learning curve, but I think that being here for 18 seasons has shortened that process. In addition, I have a mature, experienced staff with head coaching experience that can make this transition successful.”

Kowalski was elevated to associate head coach nine years ago and served as Westfield State’s defensive coordinator with an emphasis on linebackers. He was the architect of the Owls’ outstanding defense that led the nation in total defenses in 2001 and 2002, and in 2009, they led the nation in turnover margin and pass efficiency defense.

Prior to his arrival at Westfield State in 1996, Kowalski coached for 14 years at Bulkeley High School in Hartford, Conn. Bulkeley was a state finalist in 1991 and featured one of the top defenses in the state, allowing 5.4 points per game. In 1992, the Hartford school was ranked second in the state.

Kowalski has a wealth of coaching experience. He served as a track and field coach at Bulkeley from 1985-2013, including 19 years as head coach. He also coached the girls’ basketball team at Minnechaug High School in his hometown of Wilbraham.

“My heart is a teacher’s heart, and I will continue to emphasize the importance of the educational experience at Westfield State,” Kowalski said. “I am looking forward to be working with student athletes—there is a reason the student comes first. My philosophy will not change whether I am the associate head coach or the head coach—full-time or part-time. I believe that coaching is teaching, and that will remain a constant.”

Kowalski graduated from West Springfield High School in 1972 and participated in football, basketball, and track and field. He played a year of football and lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and graduated in 1977 with a health and physical education degree. He taught health and physical education in the Hartford, Conn., schools for the past 34 years. 


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