Colleague Jimmy Durkin has reported that longtime Newark Memorial High football coach and athletic director Rich Swift died Wednesday, eight days after learning he had an inoperable brain tumor. Swift, 60, died at his home in Fremont where he had been receiving hospice care since leaving the hospital Saturday.
My first day on the job as the Tri-City area’s crime reporter was Dec. 8, 2010. About a week later Justice Afoa, a former Newark Memorial High School football player was fatally stabbed at a Newark bus stop. The enormity of the crime didn’t really hit home for me until I talked to Newark Memorial’s football coach, Rich Swift. The sadness in Swift’s weary voice was palpable as he shared fond memories of Afoa. That’s the challenge of being a crime reporter, you only talk to people after something terrible has happened. I wasn’t there for Swift’s and Newark Memorial’s many big accomplishments, such as last year’s dream season in which Swift’s Cougars had their first unbeaten MVAL season to win their first outright league title since 1983.
Swift loved his players and often went to bat for them. More than a year ago, he spoke on behalf of Osana Futi at a school board meeting. Swift was trying to persuade them not to expel Futi from school over comments he allegedly made when someone taunted him about the slaying of Justice Afoa, who was his good friend. (The board did expel Futi, but he eventually returned to the high school. Sadly, he met the same fate as Justice Afoa, as was slain last May in a fight at a Fremont party. )
Swift, who has coached in the MVAL for 35 years, has been Newark Memorial High’s only football coach.