Frank Robinson III announced that he is stepping down as coach of West Hartford’s Hall High School football team.
By Ronni Newton
Frank Robinson III – who has been coaching football in West Hartford for 33 years and whose family legacy at Hall High School began years before he was even born – has announced his retirement.
Robinson, whom many call “Robbie,” said he told the team and fellow coaches on Monday night.
While the decision came as a shock to most, Robinson said it wasn’t sudden at all. “I talked to my wife last year and decided that this would be my last season,” he said.
“I’ve been coaching for 33 years,” he told We-Ha.com, which includes the past 25 seasons as head coach of Hall, where his overall record is 129-118-1. “It’s been a long time,” he said, and he wants to be able to spend some time with his family, which includes his wife and two sons.
Both sons played for Robinson in the Hall program, and he said everyone who is currently on the coaching staff has either played for him or his dad, Frank Robinson II, who was Hall’s head football coach for 30 years from 1957-1987.
Hall’s football team had practice on Tuesday, and there is a very slight chance Robinson will have an encore before his retirement becomes official. With a 7-3 record this season and no more regularly scheduled games, the Titans are currently ranked No. 9 in Class L. Only the top eight teams make the playoffs, and there are a few “what-ifs” among the higher-ranked teams who still have games remaining so the field won’t be finalized until after Thanksgiving.
After practice, Robinson drove across town to tell a few other people – Rob and Matt Cersosimo and their families – who are part of an equally storied legacy of coaching football at Conard that’s uniquely intertwined with the Robinson family and was even the subject of a documentary by sports television producer Matthew Vinick in 2014.
“I want to tell them face-to-face,” he said.
Rob Cersosimo, who was then the head coach at Conard, gave Robinson II his first coaching opportunity in 1990. “I’m very indebted to him and his family,” Robinson said.
It’s hard to keep the relationships between West Hartford’s football families straight, but to summarize as simply as possible: Robert McKee originally coached at Hall (1951-1956), but moved to Conard when the school opened in 1957. Frank Robinson II became Hall’s head coach in 1957 and retired in 1987. Rob Cersosimo played football at Hall for Frank Robinson II in the late 1960s, and later married Robert McKee’s daughter, Deb McKee. Rob Cersosimo was Conard’s head coach fro 1984-2013. Matt Cersosimo played for his dad at Conard, graduated in 1996, and became head coach in 2014. Frank Robinson III played football for his father at Hall in the 1980s, and later moved to Rhode Island. When he first returned to Connecticut to work in the West Hartford schools, “Robbie” lived in Rob Cersosimo’s attic, was like a big brother to Matt Cersosimo, and became an assistant Conard football coach in 1990. In 1997 Frank Robinson III moved to Hall, and in 1999 he took over as Hall’s head coach.
Matt and Rob Cersosimo were together on Tuesday afternoon when Robinson told them of his decision. “He came over to my dad’s house and told us the news and we were shocked,” Matt said.
“The word from me is not just ‘respect,’ but it’s ‘love’ and ‘admiration,'” Matt said. Robinson has had an enormous impact not only on Hall High School football, but football in West Hartford, and the lives of so many people.
Matt said Robinson has been like the older brother he never had, and has been part of his life since his middle school days. Robinson was his quarterback coach at Conard. “He taught me so much about football, about life, about classic rock and roll,” Matt said.
“I’m going to miss him,” Matt said. While there is plenty of intensity surrounding the Hall vs. Conard rivalry in any sport, “seeing him on the sidelines on the Saturday before Thanksgiving is so comforting.”
Hall defeated Conard last Saturday, 40-0, in the annual Mayor’s Cup game, which is not only an eagerly-anticipated football event between players who grew up together, but also a community gathering and homecoming. “The rivalry is not mean, it’s intense,” Robinson said.
“Robbie’s like a son to us. He’s a great young man and a great football coach,” Rob Cersosimo told We-Ha.com.
“Our relationship goes back to when I played for his dad, and the relationship continued with Robbie,” Rob said. “It’s bittersweet. I’m happy for him but sorry for our town to lose such a great young man as a leader,” but said he’s excited that Robinson gets to leave on his own terms.
Rob used the term “young man” multiple times during the conversation, laughing when he realized it because it’s not usually what you say about someone who is retiring, but it’s how he always thinks of Robinson.
“He did his student teaching with me. He lived with us. He’s family,” Rob said. “We just go back so far together. It’s part of the legacy.”
The class act that he is, Robinson didn’t want his colleagues and even those he has coached against over the years to hear the new through the grapevine. In addition to visiting the Cersosimos, he said he made a lot of calls, sent a lot of texts.
Robinson said he hopes the legacy can continue in some way, and while he doesn’t have any role in selection of his successor, he hopes perhaps it will be someone who played for him or his father. When asked if a third-generation Robinson might take the helm, he laughed. “One of my kids is definitely in that field, but is not in this area yet.”
Jason Siegal, athletic director for West Hartford Public Schools, said Robinson met with him to share his news on Tuesday. “That was the last thing I was expecting to hear because he’s been such a staple, but there comes a point in time when you have to decide,” Siegal said.
“He’s such an amazing coach,” and has had such an important impact on the kids, said Siegal.
The coaching position will be posted, said Siegal, who is first working to fill the Hall boys lacrosse coaching job for this spring. And while an interim head football coach for Hall won’t be named, he will ensure that leadership is in place to manage the off-season strength and conditioning work that many of the players take part in.
“He’s going to be very hard to replace,” Siegal said of Robinson.
Robinson is not yet retiring from his physical education teaching job at Hall, so while his role will be different, he will still be working with West Hartford students.
“What I did, I did for the kids,” Robinson said of his coaching career. He didn’t coach for a trophy, or for the accolades (which included being named the Jets’ “Coach of the Week” in October 2022). He doesn’t have a “best moment” he said. What he does have is a legacy of kids, and adults, whose lives he has been able to impact.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Matt Cersosimo said.
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