Dave Sofran left 'blindsided' by firing as Brother Rice coach

David Goricki, The Detroit News

Dave Sofran knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace a legend, but he didn’t back down from the challenge, instead embraced it.

Dave Sofran was dismissed after three seasons as Brother Rice football coach Friday.

Sure, Sofran didn’t think he’d be head coach at Birmingham Brother Rice for more than four decades like the man he replaced in Al Fracassa, who won a state-record 430 games with the Warriors.

But, then again Sofran didn’t think he would be fired after three years, either.

And, there’s no other way than to call Sofran’s ouster at Brother Rice anything but a shock.

Sofran, 41, played under Fracassa at Brother Rice in the early 1990s. He was an assistant coach for 14 years, elevated to offensive coordinator in 2011 and the school went on to win three consecutive Division 2 state championships before Fracassa decided to call it a career following the 2013 season.

Sofran then guided Brother Rice to an 11-0 record before a regional final loss to Warren De La Salle his first year when quarterback Alex Malzone and receiver Grant Perry — now both at Michigan   — connected 105 times for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdown. However, Brother Rice was hit hard by graduation losses and struggled to a 2-7 record.

Brother Rice rebounded for a 7-4 record this season despite injuries to Division I tight end Carter Dunaway (wrist) and quarterback Mariano Velenti,(shoulder), having to go with freshman Greg Piskopink to run the offense to get the Warriors into the state playoffs.

Sofran was optimistic about the future and put his plans in motion for the 2017 season at last Sunday’s banquet, saying naming captains for next year to get the ball in motion for offseason workouts.

Things all changed Friday when administrators told Sofran he was fired and his job as associate athletic director was also in jeopardy with the incoming coach possibly getting that position as well.

“It doesn’t make too much sense,” Sofran said. “I totally got blindsided by the whole situation. There’s a lot of young talent that is coming back so whoever comes in should be inheriting a good opportunity. I would think that I might have gotten four or five years to at least have a chance. I don’t think three years is really enough to put your mark on the program.

“I’m also the associate athletic director and they told me they want to give the next head coach the opportunity for that position as well so after 21 years of being affiliated with Brother Rice football as a player and coach, it looks like my time is over.”

Sofran said he never had a meeting with Brother Rice administrators telling him that he didn’t win enough or had to improve in one area or another or a possible change would happen.

“It’s a shame and I’m devastated,” Sofran said. “There weren’t any improprieties that took place either. I’m sad for the guys I had a chance to coach. We had our banquet Sunday, named two captains for next year and everything seemed to be on the up and up. Then, I was totally shocked and blindsided Friday, and they asked me would you like us to put a press release out that you resigned and I said I’m not resigning do what you want.

“It’s very, very unfortunate and a sad day for me. Personally, my wife and I and kids (age 9 and 7) are very invested in the Marian, Brother Rice and St. Regis community and here we are right before Christmas and this is something I’m totally caught off guard by. I will bounce back from this though. I have faith.”

 A new administration was brought in at Brother Rice in July, Tom Reidy as president and Therese Jackson as principal, both coming from Tampa Catholic.

“We truly appreciate all of the contributions Coach Sofran has made to Brother Rice during his three years as head coach, which followed his many years as an assistant coach and as a player,” said Brother Rice athletic director Jeff Calcaterra in a written statement. “His commitment and loyalty to our football program and school will be long remembered." 

Brother Rice senior defensive end Jack Saylor believes  Sofran didn’t have a clue his job was in jeopardy.

“I was shocked to learn he was fired,” Saylor said. “I thought we had a relatively successful season considering (the 2-7 season in 2015),” I always loved him as a coach. He was a guy I looked up to. I didn’t play under Coach Fracassa at all so my first year was under Coach Sofran. He was inspirational in what he said, how he influenced the team. I thought he was great, but in the end whoever fired him didn’t feel the same.

“Everything seemed to be fine at the banquet Sunday, everyone seemed happy. We had a bunch of college coaches come in Friday and I saw him in the morning he got fired and he seemed fine, so he never saw it coming.”


Twitter: @DavidGoricki