Bridgeport Middle School Tom Fogg was quick to tell anyone that listened that he was so beloved that when he retired from coaching that something at the football field would be named after him. With the field named after Wayne Jamison and the field house named in honor of the late Tom Harvey, not much was left.
Fogg, though, had found his calling card in porcelain. He wanted a urinal in the coach’s office named after him. Now that he’s retired from coaching, the question becomes “will it actually happen?”
Less than a few hours after it was publicly released that Fogg had submitted his resignation letter, there was a groundswell of support.
“Absolutely I’d back that,” said Bridgeport High School assistant football coach John Cole. “Any wish of Tom’s is something I’d like to see fulfilled. Since the field’s naming rights are gone, it’s got to be something so I think we can do that with the urinal.”
Of course, Cole can get away with that. For that matter, anyone who has had the pleasure of playing for, learning under, working with, working against or just come into contact with Fogg can get away with it. It’s all part of the persona of Tom Fogg, and part of the reason many folks are saddened to hear that after 20 years on Bridgeport Middle School’s sidelines – actually going back to when it was Bridgeport Junior High – that Fogg has said he’s submitted his letter of resignation.
While Tom Fogg can claim many friends, Cole is among his closest. Along with coaching together and teaching beside one another, John Cole’s very first years in the coaching business was with Fogg at the old school on Newton Street.
“He gave me that first break and made me want to keep going. I think it was that Tom loved to have a great time and, when it came to dealing with all of the coaches and teachers, he was leading the way in stirring things up, and I mean that in a good way,” said Cole. “He didn’t care who made fun of whom, because there was no prejudice with Tom. He’d make fun of anybody. The best part was that when you got one in on him, he’s the one that would laugh the hardest.”
A lot of those insults, along with a whole lot of stories and tall tales, were traded behind the closed doors of the coaching staff’s office at the Bridgeport Field House. And Cole said most of it was meant for an adult level audience. BHS head coach Josh Nicewarner backs that assessment.
“Having that office time and the doors are closed and you tell stories,” said Nicewarner, “is about as much fun as you can have and Tom Fogg’s usually in the middle of it.”
Cole insists, though, Fogg is more than the comedian.
“Through all of that there’s a lot more substance to Tom than his humor, which is a big part of who he is,” Cole continued. “The big thing is that he’s genuine. You don’t find that too often anymore and that’s what I appreciate most about him as a friend. I think the kids respected that as well.”
Plenty of Fogg’s players went on to bigger and better things at the high school level. Plenty also have done big things in life. Brett Hathaway, a junior at Bridgeport High School who led Harrison County in rushing, was a Class AAA all-stater as well as the winner of the Frank Loria Award, said he heard Thursday his former middle school coach was stepping down.
“The one thing I remember is that I had a lot of fun playing for him. I think everyone will tell you he was fun to be around,” said Hathaway. “He was a pretty good coach, too. I know I learned a lot from him and it was kind of sad to hear he was leaving.”
Players from many years ago also were saddened by the news. Jason Young, who played in the mid-1990s and was a co-captain his 8th-grade year, remembers how he took him and molded him into a contributor.
“Growing up I was too large to play Pop Warner football, so when I started playing in 7th grade I was totally green. Coach Fogg was great about teaching and coaching at the same time so that his team members were all on the same level of knowledge of the game even though abilities were different,” Young said. “This commitment to teaching football is a huge contributor to the success of the BHS football program. Having good feeder programs makes the varsity program that much stronger. Coach Fogg ran a great feeder program for 20 years.”
Cole backed that assessment up 100 percent.
“As a varsity coach, you want the middle school program and the freshmen programs to promote interest and teach the fundamentals along with a taste of success,” said Cole. “I always felt it was important that Tom made it as fun as it could be in hopes they would stick around and play at the varsity level. That’s been instrumental in our success because if you have a dictator out there, they get discouraged and would probably not even come out.”
For the last two seasons, Fogg’s right-hand man has been assistant coach Robbie Buffington. Buffington said you could almost always count on big numbers at BMS because the kids wanted to play for Fogg.
“We talked with Coach Nicewarner last year when we had a 54-man team and I think Coach Nicewarner was happiest about it because there are 30 8thgraders there that potentially could be a large senior class,” said Buffington. “I know we had those numbers because they wanted to play for Tom. When they leave here, they’ve been taught well and they’re prepared for the next level.”
Buffington, like everyone else, pointed to Fogg’s ability to make things enjoyable on the field. What stood out even more, Buffington said, was how he was able to get the kids to pay attention when it mattered most.
“He easily makes people laugh, but with that said, there’s something about him when he needs to get a coaching point across, the kids are at full attention,” said Buffington. “That’s a great quality I saw immediately.”
Still, despite all the good times, Cole is sorry to see his friend leave the business.
“It’s a sad day. You spend a lot of time with each other. Maybe we spend more as coaches than other professions and you grow close,” said Cole. “Tom will always be my friend and it’s nice to know we’ve shared memories together and I’m sure there will be more. That’s something that won’t go away."
Cole is right. Even if he has that urinal named after him, he’ll also have the memories. And those can’t be flushed down the drain.