Oakland University club football being led by new coach

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published June 1, 2018

 Rick Fracassa

Rick Fracassa

ROCHESTER — In recent years, Oakland University’s club football team has received attention for its on-field success.

But a major change during the offseason has led to some off-the-field news for the Golden Grizzlies.

After Tom Menas decided to resign as head coach to pursue other opportunities, Oakland selected Rick Fracassa to help lead its program.

According to Fracassa, he coached the freshman team at Birmingham Brother Rice for 20 years.

Fracassa’s father, Al, helped lead Brother Rice’s varsity program to nine state championships and is the second-winningest coach in state history with 430 victories. He was surpassed by Farmington Hills Harrison’s John Herrington this past fall. 

“As soon as we had an opening for a new head coach, he was one of the first names that came up as someone being interested,” said Oakland Club Adviser Nic Bongers. “Coming in with his reputation, his connections with Brother Rice, and all the history behind Brother Rice and the Fracassa name, I think that his pedigree speaks for itself. … Once we brought him in, he said all the things we wanted to hear, and we’re really excited to have him on board with us.”

Last season, after having won a national championship the year prior, Oakland’s season ended with a loss in the semifinal round of the National Club Football Association playoffs. 

Fracassa’s short-term aspiration is for Oakland to reclaim what previously belonged to the program.

“Those guys went pretty far last year and just fell short,” Fracassa said. “That’s my first goal: win (the) national championship.”

What Fracassa wants for Oakland in the long term is even loftier.

He thinks there needs to be an NCAA football team at Oakland.

“That would be my main focus,” Fracassa said. “I’d like to be the guy that started the first (NCAA) sanctioned football team. Division II, I would think it would be a perfect fit. … I think it’s just inevitable to take the university to the next step. … Be good for the whole community around here. It is really popping over there. It’s becoming a very good school.”

In the meantime, he gets to work with the kinds of players who could earn the respect of even the toughest of coaches.

“These guys pay to play,” Fracassa said. “These guys have to love the game. They’re not getting any scholarships. They (got to) raise money. … It’s really a nice atmosphere. So, the dedication level is very high. I respect those guys for doing that.”

Aside from having players who are dedicated enough to the game of football to pay to play it, even prior to becoming Oakland’s coach, Fracassa saw that there is also some talent on the roster.

“I’ve watched (them) play for the last few years, and they look good,” he said. “I hope I can make a difference in making them better. … I got some good talent and some good attitudes.”

One of Oakland’s team members is defensive end and offensive lineman Brett Jacobs, who is a 2015 graduate of Brother Rice.

Jacobs played for Al Fracassa, and having someone who has a history with Brother Rice help lead Oakland’s program is no small thing to him.

“For me, it’s a huge deal because when I was at Rice, I was taught a lot about leadership and commitment,” Jacobs said. “And when looking for a new coach for Oakland, our biggest (thing was) trying to find someone who’d help try and instill those qualities in college students, to help college students continue with a passion like I had when I was at Rice. And I think Rick’s a really good person for that.”

Fracassa considers himself to be an offensive-minded coach who likes to score a lot of points.

Somebody who can help Oakland accomplish that is Fracassa’s son, Jason, who is the team’s offensive coordinator.

Jason Fracassa was a quarterback with Sterling Heights Stevenson from 2006 to 2009. He holds Michigan High School Athletic Association records for career yards, attempts and completions.

With Rick Fracassa’s offensive philosophy, and his son helping to execute it, Oakland could provide some thrills for fans this year.

“I think (a) good offense is the best defense,” the head coach said. “Like to spread the ball around to anybody that can catch it. … The more you spread it around, the better.”

Oakland’s football club has done a pretty good job of getting things right in the past, and from Bongers’ perspective, bringing on Fracassa is yet another good decision.

“The cool thing about this is, since we’re a football club, the student board and myself get to decide who our head coach is, not the university,” Bongers said. “The university doesn’t have any part in who we pick for head coaches. So, for us to go out on our own and get a coach of this caliber, I think is really cool.”