Bainer resigns as Derby football coach after 2 years and 5 games

Hired two years ago and a global pandemic, Steve Bainer was thrilled at the prospect of becoming the next head football coach at Derby High School. Even the challenge of being the state’s smallest, uncooperative program, Bainer believed he could make Derby a competitive football program again.

But he barely got the chance. Within weeks of his hiring in January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The CIAC eventually canceled the 2020 season and when football returned last year, Derby forfeited the second half of the season due to an insufficient number of players.

All these factors, combined with his wife going back to school, looking after their 3-year-old daughter and coaching baseball at Woodland, Bainer said it was best to step down as Derby’s coach after just two years.

“It really was a perfect storm,” says Bainer, 33, who teaches social studies in high school. “It was a difficult situation for everyone.

“Derby football needs someone who can give it 100 percent attention. The program is currently in full transition and, wherever I am in my life, there is no way I can give it the attention it needs.”

In all, Bainer coached just five official games, scoring 0-5 before the school canceled the rest of the season, including the age-old Thanksgiving Day game against Shelton.

With four state championships and more than 500 wins since 1902, Derby is one of the state’s most storied football programs. But it has struggled to stay competitive for the past two decades while battling low numbers.

Derby briefly teamed up with O’Brien Tech when it moved from the larger Southern Connecticut Conference to the Naugatuck Valley League. It returned to playing as an independent program in 2011.

While Derby has won just 11 games in the past five seasons, the school has said it is committed to turning the schedule around.

In a phone message, Derby’s athletic director Teg Cosgriff confirmed that the school posted the vacancy late last week. He did not immediately answer a follow-up call for comment.

Bainer, who resigned just before the Christmas break, thanked the Derby administration for the support during his short tenure and hopes the program will be turned around soon.

“Our kids were great,” he said. “I felt bad about what happened and I hope there might be a co-op option for them. I don’t know if the marriage exists, but our kids deserve the chance to play.”

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