Feb 07, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
Even in retirement, Rich Roy will still be a busy man.
That’s because after he leaves his post as athletic director at Fayetteville-Manlius High School on July 1, a spot he’s held securely for 22 years, Roy will turn his attention to philanthropy by working on beginning a clearinghouse of sorts.
And he’s leaving behind a legacy at F-M that has helped transform the Class AA school into not only a state athletic powerhouse, but also propelled it into the national spotlight.
“I am a great believer in what athletics do for kids,” Roy, 57, said in a phone interview. “Discipline, motivation, goal setting — sports helps with all of that. The outcomes are usually the same, but the vehicles are just different. I felt that when a seventh-grader, it’s his or her first time trying out for a varsity team, I don’t want their first experience to be getting cut. I made it my goal to extend the opportunities the school can offer so everyone can play.”
His words are backed up in more ways than you can count. Just last year, F-M was ranked No. 4 on a list of the top high schools in the country. The list is compiled not just by success, which F-M has grown accustomed to, but also by education. In 2010, F-M was No. 6, showing the program has truly turned into a powerhouse.
“I am very proud of what has transpired over my 22 years here,” Roy said when pressed to say what his crowning achievement is. He made it clear that what has happened under his watch was a complete team effort that teachers, coaches, students and parents got behind and wouldn’t take credit for the jump in prowess.
On Feb. 17, ESPN Rise is holding an assembly for students as a way to recognize the undoubtedly massive achievement.
When he took over in 1990, he had spent a total of three years as athletic director of Hannibal, but says he was still “new” to the job. In his first year at F-M, the school, due to serious budget issues, had in place a pay-to-play system that forced families to dole out cash for Johnny or Joanna to participate in a sport. The rest of the money for the department came through the booster club’s various fund-raising activities.
The other big issue was that there were just seven teams total for seventh-graders on up, which meant the younger students had the slimmest of chances of being able to participate in those sports. Roy said because the older kids had put in the time, they were usually the ones who saw all the action on the field.
The following year the budget was passed and Roy hit the books. He must have studied insanely well, because over the following three years every sport added a freshman and junior varsity team. F-M currently has 29 teams, which Roy says gives more than 1,000 athletic opportunities at the school.
“We made a plan and stuck to it, which helped a bunch of kids get the chance to play sports,” he added.
Roy said that, on average, F-M takes home between 12 and 15 league titles per year. Though definitive answers are difficult to calculate, Roy did offer a few estimates.
“You’d have to come and look at the banners in the gym, and I’m not sure you’d still have an accurate answer,” he said. “But in my 22 years, I’d say we won close to 300 league titles and probably 150 to 175 sectional championships (both individual and team). On the state level, we’ve won 12 or 13.
“When kids succeed on such a high level, it’s incredibly gratifying to see the sheer joy on their faces. Then you see the parents and coaches, who’ve put so much into it. When you see it at that level, it’s truly meaningful.”
The girls’ cross country team, though, is where F-M has made its name as of late. It has become commonplace that the squad wins a national title each year. That’s because since 2006, the girls haven’t returned home without gold in hand.
Because of that, Roy said, the school’s visibility has grown exponentially.
“Winning those titles transcends the team,” Roy said. “Everybody in the community is in on it, not just the girls on the team. When you go out, you hear people talking about our team, not their team. There’s so much respect for the huge accomplishment.”
Roy also spent a lot of time as an organizational representative in many ways with local high school sports. From 1995 through 1997, Roy was president of the Onondaga High School League, before taking the big step to president of Section III from 2004 to 2006.
Roy said the school hasn’t decided upon a replacement, adding: “there’s a ton of leg work to do, but there is still time.”
In closing his interview, Roy wanted, again, to make it clear that F-M’s success in athletics isn’t a one-headed monster, but rather the culmination of hard work, solid communication and, above all, teamwork.
“This doesn’t happen without the coaches’, players’, teachers’ and parents’ dedication to our community,” he said.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.