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Former Poughkeepsie Coach To Take Over FDR Football

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

Ken Barger, the highly respected longtime coach who brought Poughkeepsie High School football back to prominence, is back on the sidelines in Dutchess County.

Barger was announced on Sunday as the new head football coach at Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, taking over for James Muraco, who stepped down after the 2019 season.

“It means the world to me to be a head coach again,” Barger told HVSR in an interview. “I cannot wait to help the students and student-athletes at FDR in the classroom, the community and on the fields.”

Barger spent the last several seasons as the co-offensive coordinator at Archbishop Stepinac, the Westchester County-based private school football powerhouse, helping win two state titles during his time there.

Prior to that, Barger rebuilt the Poughkeepsie program between 2005 and 2012. The Pioneers made six postseason appearances in his eight seasons, winning three league championships, finishing as the Section 1, Class A runner-up in 2009 and winning the section championship in 2011. During those eight years, nearly 40 players from the Poughkeepsie program went on to play college football.

Poughkeepsie has since had five head coaches in the last seven years.

Barger was known as a strict but compassionate coach. He insisted on a ‘no class, no play’ philosophy with players, but also understood the nuances and challenges of coaching in the inner city. He routinely kept boxes of food such as breakfast bars, granola bars, Pop-Tarts and other items in his office to give to players who might not have had a chance to eat at home.

In January of 2013, however, Barger was accused of giving students “special accommodations” at two New York State Regents exams, a dubious charge given the lack of evidence and the support of his colleagues. Barger was eventually terminated as coach and as a Special Education teacher at the school by a board of education that, at the time, was alarmingly intrusive in Poughkeepsie athletics – to the point where it bypassed its own athletic director and at least two board members took a prospective coaching candidate to dinner for an interview. At the same time, two other Poughkeepsie teachers facing similar charges were only reprimanded.

Barger never lost his teaching license, however, and will teach Special Education at Roosevelt. His best friend, Jim Daley, is a principal in the Hyde Park district and Barger also coached with current FDR high school principal Rick Pardy while Pardy was the head coach at Marist College.

“I have a really good feel for the school and the environment,” Barger said. “There are a ton of great things about FDR. The weight room is one of the nicest and best-equipped in the area. The Oval Office facility is amazing. The administration has been incredibly supportive. That is everything a new coach can ask for.”

Barger is also fully aware of the challenges presented by the current environment in the world.

“Some people have asked in this process why leave the best football program in the state during the midst of a historic pandemic to restart a new program? I really think why not?” Barger said. “Opportunity does not often come knocking and to be able to provide the FDR kids a tremendous football experience absolutely speaks to me.”

Roosevelt football has struggled in recent years, partly because of its changing enrollment that has saw the program fluctuate between Section 9, Class AA, back down to Class A, then back up to AA again. Also, there were at least two seasons where it did not have a JV team.

“Getting up and running will be a new challenge. We will be starting online meetings and using hudl tremendously,” Barger said. “I have so much respect for (former) coaches Brian Bellino and Muraco that I don’t feel ‘tweak’ or ‘change’ is the word. I would say grow. I want to grow the program. Grown the numbers. Dive into the youth programs. Grow the feeling of family. Grow the college football recruiting opportunities. I want to build one overriding mission and vision for the program.”


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