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Legendary Coaches, World Champions Headline Inaugural Brother Rice HS Athletics Hall of Fame Class
Fracassa, Norton, Popson and Stark Join Ex-Pro’s Armstrong and Lodish
Brother Rice, which opened in 1960, has a history of athletic prowess. Fifty-two of its teams have won State Championships, and its coaches have been among the most honored in the state. Countless individuals also have won All-State and All-American honors since the school’s founding, many of whom have gone on to compete at the college level with several others – including Armstrong and Lodish – moving on to achieve distinguished careers in the professional ranks.
“The concept of an Athletic Hall of Fame at a place like Brother Rice does not come about without a great deal of debate and discussion,”
Fracassa has won more football games than any other high school coach in Michigan. A head coach for 50 years, the last 40 at Brother Rice, he has led Brother Rice to seven State Championships and received numerous honors through the years, including the 1997 National High School Coach of the Year from the National Football League and 2009 Michiganian of the Year from the Detroit News. Fracassa, who begins his 41st season at Brother Rice on Aug. 10, also taught history and physical education at Brother Rice from 1969-98 and coached baseball from 1970-82. He and his wife of 53 years, Phyllis, live in Warren and have four children (Richard, David, Kathleen and Susan) and seven grandchildren.
The school’s winningest basketball coach, Norton is one of the most well-respected names in Michigan high school basketball circles. His 1973-74 team won Brother Rice’s first State Championship, roughly seven months before Fracassa’s first State Title. Norton counts 323 wins with Brother Rice among his 456 career victories. He also served the school in a variety of other roles, including Athletic Director (1968-81), Dean of Students, Director of Development, Science and Health teacher and Head Football Coach (1968). Norton, who currently teaches at Birmingham Groves, lives in Orchard Lake with his wife of 43 years, Vivian. The couple has two children: Jessica and Nathan, a 1992 graduate of Brother Rice.
Popson succeeded Norton as the school’s athletic director and held the position until his retirement in 2003. During his tenure, Popson presided over 35 of its 52 State Championships. In addition to 29 years as a biology teacher, Popson has served as Fracassa’s Offensive Line Coach and Track & Field Coach. In 2003, the Catholic High School League honored Popson as its Athletic Director of the Year. Two years after his retirement, the community was shocked by the news of his fatal car accident in 2005. Mike is survived by his wife Joyce and their five children, including four graduates of Brother Rice: Michael ’81, Mark ’82, Matthew ’84, Maria, and Martin ’90.
Stark is a member of the school’s first graduating class. After receiving his degree from the University of Notre Dame, he returned to Brother Rice in 1968 and has taught math and world history and coached Cross Country and Track & Field since. Stark, a resident of Birmingham, was named 2006 Catholic High School League Man of the Year and was the distinguished honoree at the Oakland Country Track Meet in 2008.
“If you’re going to mention Hall of Fame high school coaches, there is no better place to start than Al Fracassa, Bill Norton, Mike Popson and Bob Stark,” said Brother Rice Athletic Director Reg Cavender. “While great at the Xs and Os, their accomplishments go way beyond the playing field. First and foremost, they have been great people and role models for our student-athletes.”
The two former student-athletes honored in the inaugural class both are members of the Class of 1985, who went on to great success at the college and professional levels. Armstrong starred on the University of Iowa’s basketball team in the late 80s and then spent 11 years in the National Basketball Association, including winning three world championships (1991-93) as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He also was named an NBA All-Star in 1994. Armstrong still holds Brother Rice’s single-game scoring record (51 points) and is a member of the Catholic League Hall of Fame. Armstrong is currently Vice President of Basketball Management for Wasserman Media Group LLC and resides in Chicago.
Lodish was All-State in both football and lacrosse at Brother Rice before moving on to a decorated football career at UCLA. After college, he spent an 11 years in the National Football League, including two with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Lodish’
“We have had a lot of great student-athletes come through here,” said Birney, who taught both Armstrong and Lodish, “but it’s pretty tough to argue with the fact that B.J. and Mike are very worthy of this honor.”
The Athletic Hall of Fame was announced by the Office of Advancement at Brother Rice in 2008. The school accepted nominations from its community from July 1, 2008, through April 30, 2009. The list of nominees was turned over to a Selection Committee, which voted on each nominee. The complete criteria and process are available at www.brrice.edu.
The inaugural class will be honored at an Induction Ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. in the Brother Rice gym. For more information, call (248) 647-2531 or go to the school’s web site www.brrice.edu.
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Brother Rice High School is a private, fully accredited, four-year Catholic College Preparatory school for 700 young men. Brother Rice was founded in 1960 by the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland. For more information, call (248) 647-2526.