116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Last Tuesday was a special day for the Cochrane family.
Within minutes of the Missouri Valley Football Conference announcing Jack Cochrane of Mount Vernon as the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year — he was a first-team all-league linebacker at South Dakota with a 4.0 GPA — Wartburg officially named its new athletics director.
John Cochrane — the former Iowa Conference (now American Rivers Conference) commissioner, Cornell AD and Jack’s father — was getting back into athletics at the Waverly college.
It appears nice guys don’t always finish last.
“Some weeks are better than others,” John Cochrane said with a laugh in a telephone interview a few days after the announcement. “I’m glad good things happen once in a while.”
Cochrane has been the epitome of “good things” during his 20-plus years in Eastern Iowa.
A native of Sioux City who graduated from Iowa State, the 56-year-old Cochrane worked as a compliance assistant at the University of Iowa while earning a law degree before leaving the state for jobs at the University of Detroit Mercy and with the NCAA.
He returned to Iowa in 2001 to become the first full-time commissioner of the IIAC. He left that job to become Cornell’s athletics director, a job he held for eight years.
While his “resignation” at Cornell was unexpected, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t hold Cochrane in high esteem.
Like Al Pacino’s line in Godfather III — “just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in!” — Cochrane is back in the game.
This, however, is a welcome return, and a great hire by Wartburg, which has made a lot of great hires through the years.
That’s one of the reasons Wartburg appealed to the seasoned athletics administrator.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said. “I feel very blessed.”
Cochrane had been working for Elite Stone Fabrication in Lisbon since leaving Cornell in 2016, a job that afforded him the opportunity to follow Jack’s career at South Dakota.
“I will always be indebted,” he said.
But athletics and athletics administration is in his blood. It was a dream opportunity.
“There were very few jobs I would have expressed interest in,” he said.
Wartburg, with its multiple national titles in a variety of sports, was the right situation at the right time.
“I would hold Wartburg up to any other job in America in Division III,” he said.
But it was more than all the success the Knights have seemingly across the board — football, basketball, wrestling, track and field. His daughter, Karly, ran track and graduated from the college in 2014.
“They place a really high value on athletics,” he said. “It’s a distinguishing characteristic. (But) they also value what student-athletes bring to the college.
“I was able to see first hand, as a parent, the impact ... it changed my daughter’s life.”
It would seem to be a pretty easy job — great coaches already in place, strong established programs and a reputation for success not only in the A-R-C, but nationally.
But there’s not an AD in the country — at any level — who doesn’t want make their mark on the programs they oversee.
“It’s really important to establish these trusting relationships with the staff,” he said. “That’s a springboard to moving forward.”
Like many colleges and universities in recent years, Wartburg has added sports to attract more students to its campus — things like clay target sports, bowling, lacrosse, esports and, of course, women’s wrestling.
“We want to grow and develop” those new sports, Cochrane said, and for the others try “to do some little things that are going to allow them to take further steps.
“I don’t know what those are yet ... that will take time.”
He starts his new job on Jan. 1 and will relocate to Waverly, selling his house in Mount Vernon, a place the Cochranes have called home for 20 years.
“In the short term, it’s incredibly hectic,” he said.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but one I’m looking forward to.”
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