Football Coach of 19 Years Departs Midseason


Courtesy of Poly Athletics

In the middle of an October practice, Head Varsity Football Coach of almost 20 years Kevin Fountaine was asked to leave campus immediately. Over the past month, parents and students have grappled with Fountaine’s departure, searching for more transparency to make sense of what occurred and in the process, generating rumors.


When asked why Fountaine left in an interview with the Polygon, Head of School Audrius Barzdukas said, “Every change we make at the school is always asking ourselves how we can improve students’ experiences. I can’t speak directly about Coach Fountaine in this situation, [but] we want every single program to reflect our school’s values, the things that we deem important to our culture—our values of diversity, integrity, transparency, and the pursuit of excellence.” 


Director of Engagement and Communications Jennifer Slomack added in an email to the Polygon, “At Poly, we follow HR best practices, which includes how we handle confidential personnel information.” 


The news was upsetting to players, parents, and coaches alike. Recounting what took place on Tuesday, October 26, a Poly football coach who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said, “[Richard] Corso [Head of Athletics] went and told Coach Fountaine that he needed to meet with him at 4:10, which is a little bit of an anomaly because they have practice at 4 o’clock.” Fountaine had been in his office while the students were practicing on the field. After Fountaine was escorted off campus, “Corso came back, informed the staff that Coach Fountaine was no longer employed as the head coach of Poly Prep [Football], and then Corso let the students know,” said the coach. 


Football players were crying, said a parent of a football player who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared possible repercussions for their child. 


Head of Athletics Richard Corso wrote a brief email to coaches and faculty the following day. “We constantly assess students’ experiences and seek to improve them. We have made changes in football leadership and Coach Kevin Fountaine will no longer serve as a member of our athletics department,” he wrote. Corso declined to be interviewed for this story. Head of Upper School Sarah Bates also declined to be interviewed.


Many are saddened not only for their kids and football program, but for Fountaine himself. Fountaine, a former member of the New York Police Department, coached football at Poly since 2002, seeing talented players off to play football in college and the NFL.


“Coach Fountaine was a father figure to many others on the team,” said football player Remo Marcaccio ’23. “A dedicated coach who instilled in his players the importance of integrity and hard work, he has been a support to his players during crisis and loss, always someone we could count on when we needed guidance.”


Fountaine’s leave comes amidst playoff season and directly impacts the football team’s upperclassmen who are hoping to get recruited in the next year. Fountaine was a direct contact between many students and college coaches; players depended on his guidance to counsel the recruitment process from the athletics side.


Multiple parents voiced their frustration that Barzdukas didn’t provide the clarity some were looking for or failed to respond entirely to some inquiries. “When individual people reach out to me, I’ve communicated with them,” Barzdukas said. “Mr. Corso, who is our head of athletics, went to speak with the team [the day it occurred] because it was important that the boys heard of a transition to a new coach. An email went out to parents.” 


Barzdukas also met with the football team a week after Fountaine left Poly. According to multiple coaches and players who were present in the room, Barzdukas told the football team of several reasons for a change in team leadership. In this meeting, Barzdukas explained that team leadership enabled what he believes to be a negative culture characterized by behaviors that include the inappropriate use of language and the habit of cutting classes. 


In an email to the Polygon, Barzdukas offered a comment on this meeting. “At Poly, we care deeply about promoting a culture rooted in integrity, civility, and respect, and when necessary, we take decisive action to protect this culture,” he wrote. “As a matter of policy and out of respect for the privacy of our community members, we do not comment on personnel matters.”

The publication of a New York Post article on November 13 about Fountaine’s departure further propagated the spread of confusion, prompting Barzdukas to email the Poly community. 

“Culture matters…Only when every member of our school feels safe to be his, her, or their authentic self at school will we have a community able to fully explore its potential as learners and educators,” he wrote. “We expect our faculty and staff to teach, enforce, advocate for, and model our school’s values, and ensure that our students do their best to live up to those values…Please know that any decision to separate from an employee is taken seriously and after careful consideration.” 


As players and parents continue to make sense of what unfolded, rumors continue to circulate, as the greater Poly community also continues to struggle with a lack of transparency. Senior Sigourney Heaton said, “Every day I hear something new. I have heard many different stories. Some claim that Fountaine did absolutely nothing, while others have told absolutely bonkers stories.”


“Even if they wanted to change some football ‘culture,’ it could have waited two weeks so the team could have finished their season and Coach Fountaine could have ended his [almost] 20-year career at Poly with dignity,” said another parent who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared possible repercussions for their child.

The Polygon reached out to Fountaine, who wrote in a text, “Poly is a place I truly love and has been my home away from home for the past 19 years. I have been advised by my attorney not to speak to anyone regarding this situation.”  


During his interview with the Polygon, Barzdukas added, “You make transitions when you think it’s time to make them. Context does matter, but we are always trying to figure out when’s the right time to do something, and part of my work is making that decision when it’s the right time.”

“We are committed to having a football program, like every program we have, that embodies our values,” he continued. “We are leading a search across America to find the best possible coach for our program because we think our students deserve that. I’m confident we are going to find that new person.”


Additional reporting by Lucas Basham, Carly Pyles, and Maerose Daniels