Fossa was ‘upstanding individual’

Fossa was ‘upstanding individual’

Narragansett coaching legend, N.K. athletic director began superb high school career as NPHS football assistant

NORTH PROVIDENCE – When folks across the state recall Dick Fossa’s remarkable career as a high school football coach, they easily identify it with the 15 seasons he spent as Narragansett High’s head coach, which included four Super Bowl appearances, two Division IV championships, and four Providence Gridiron Coach of the Year honors.

But what some people tend to forget is that Fossa’s high school career actually began at North Providence High in the 1990s and saw him spend the 1995-1998 seasons as the Cougars’ head coach.

Fossa, who grew up in North Providence and is a member of the North Providence Sports Hall of Fame, died on June 13 at the age of 61 from heart complications, and last week, he was well remembered for his work with Narragansett, where he also served as the school’s athletic director and an assistant baseball coach, and North Kingstown High, where he spent the past three years as its athletic director.

“Richard had a deep love of family and athletics,” states his obituary. “He poured his heart into everything he did.”

North Providence High athletic director and head football coach Glenn Williams, who was also raised in this town, was two years older than Fossa, but surprisingly, he didn’t get to really know him until Fossa became the Mariners’ athletic director in the fall of 2014.

Both Williams and Fossa went to different high schools in the mid-1970s – Williams attending NP and Fossa going to La Salle Academy – and when Fossa left NP after the 1998 season to take over the Mariners’ program, Williams joined the Cougars’ coaching staff as an assistant the following year.

The Mariners, who went on to win the Division IV championship in 1999 and 2003, only played the Cougars a handful of times before Narragansett got promoted to Division III, and even though Williams and Fossa didn’t get an opportunity to talk to each other after those games, they did when Fossa joined the state’s athletic director ranks after serving as Narragansett’s assistant athletic director.

“Whatever you read about him was so true,” Williams said. “I became an athletic director before he became one, and dealing with him as an athletic director, he was always cordial. He was a gentleman, positive, considerate, just an upstanding individual.”

As a head coach, Fossa “was always a gentleman about the game who put the kids first,” Williams added. “And he never had a negative word to say. He was always wishing luck to everyone.”

Fossa was the son of G. Richard Fossa, a former mayor of North Providence and current chief of staff.

Fossa, who lost his wife Jean in 2013, said this week that the death of his son was even more devastating.

“It was the worst day of my life,” he said. “It’s devastating. I talked with him one hour, and an hour later he’s gone.”

He said he feels so badly for his son’s three children.

Fossa said his son never wanted to take credit for anything. He recalled how he was pulled over by a police officer as a 17-year-old and the officer asking him if he was Dick Fossa’s son. He said no because he didn’t want any special favors.

Simply put, Fossa “was a good kid,” said his dad.

“He had a lot of accomplishments in his life,” he said.

He said he was blown away by a ceremony last week at the Dunes Club, saying it was fit for someone very important.

“To me he was,” he said.

Fossa was a walk-on player for the Arizona State football team in 1977 before he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and master’s degree in athletic administration from Ohio University.

His father remembered how he and his wife shouted at their son after they learned that he was leaving Arizona State. When they finally gave him a chance to talk, he told them he had been accepted to Notre Dame. His graduation ceremony featured the first appearance of Ronald Reagan after he was shot.

A few years after graduating from Notre Dame, Fossa, who also played baseball at La Salle, chased his dreams of becoming a Major League umpire. That dream ended after eight seasons in the minor leagues, but during that time, Fossa toiled in the Pioneer, California, Texas, and International Leagues.

Toward the end of his umpiring career, Fossa landed a job in the offseason at Tri-Town Community Action Agency in Johnston and began his high school coaching career as an assistant at North Providence in 1991, and two years later, he was on the staff that led the Cougars to the Division IV championship.

In 1995, he eventually became head coach of the Cougars, and his best seasons were the 1996 and 1998 campaigns, which saw NP post 4-5 records.

After posting an 81-50 record in his 15 seasons leading the Mariners, Fossa stepped down to become Narragansett’s athletic director. Three years later, he took a short drive up Route 4 to become N.K.’s athletic director, and last year, he received the RIIL Athletic Director of the Year award.

Fossa, who had served as the president of the Providence Gridiron Club and the R.I. High School Football Coaches Association, was also inducted into the Gridiron Club, Italian American Sports, and R.I. High School Football Coaches Halls of Fame. He was also a member of the R.I. Athletic Administrators Association who served on the RIIL’s football and hockey committees.

(Editor’s Note: Breeze Editor Ethan Shorey also contributed to this story.)

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