Oregon State's Dick Foxal Retires

Nick LiljaCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2008

Foxal is having his retirement ceremony after 38 years of coaching and probably won't raise a toast. His gymnasts, past and present, will be too busy doing it for him. See, Dick is a man facing the sunset of his career—and he doesn’t fit into his own silhouette.

Oregon State gymnasts will tell you stories you may not believe, because they aren’t sure they do either. He’s worked for Boeing and has taught in the Southeast. But he was always pulled back into the gym.

He was a coach.

He was bigger than life. Part coach, part mentor. Always entertaining and always teaching.

“He will be missed in the gym,” senior D’Anna Piro said. “He was a very influential person. He gave us a lot of a purpose when we worked out. What you learn from Dick goes further than just gymnastics—you learn a life lesson almost everyday."

There had been whispers about his retirement for quite some time now. He has been coaching for 38 years, people weren’t sure if he knew how to stop. It’s still so surreal to the gymnasts.

“Nobody wants him to go,” 2008 graduate Keegan Fitzgerald said. “He is the most patient man; he is so knowledgeable about gymnastics.”

Foxal has been a key component to the successes for Oregon State. In his 21 seasons with the Beavers, he has helped guide the team to 13 NCAA Championships—including the last three seasons. He is also responsible for 10 top 10 finishes since he walked into Corvallis and helped the team finish fourth in 1996.

“It was nice to have someone who has been around gymnastics for a while,” junior gymnast Laura-Ann Chong said. “He knows a lot of different techniques.”

He is regarded by the gymnasts as an amazing man, and they are fortunate to have known him.

“He’s been a wonderful coach and he has been very inspiring,” senior Kera Bolen said. “He was one of the best bar coaches I’ve ever worked with.”

Foxal feels the exact same way toward the women he coached. He told osubeavers.com that he has had a great career.

“I’m a lucky man to have been involved in gymnastics for so many years. This has been a very rich experience,” Foxal said. “I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such amazing young women during the course of my career at Oregon State.

"A lot has changed at OSU over the last two decades in the sport of gymnastics and at this university. I am very proud to have been part of such an enormous transformation with the gymnastics program as well as for the athletic department.”

The Beaver gymnasts know it won’t be the same in the gym. Foxal was known as a bit of a prankster at times.

“He’d play this game, where he would hide your water bottle,” Chong said. “You’d turn around to take a drink and it would be gone. Dick would be over somewhere chuckling and smiling”

“I’ll miss his stories,” Bolen said. “Sometimes you don’t know if he is telling the truth. You think, they are probably true, but they are so far out there. Ones where he almost dies. But you can never tell.”

“He has this pet mouse named Charlie,” Piro said. “Which is really a stuffed mouse—that he keeps in his pocket—to surprise the freshman.”

Since his first day in 1987, he has been sharing wild stories and building some as well. Oregon State gymnasts have won four individual titles and earned 59 All-America honors—including 11 on the uneven bars, his primary area of coaching.

“He has this flip book,” Piro said. “He’ll show it to you as a freshman. It’s full of routines and skills that he wants you to do. Some of them are crazy and you’ll be like ‘are you serious?’”

Starting Sept. 1, Foxal will be out of the gym, but not out of the program. He will continue to be associated with Oregon State gymnastics outside of the gym. His new position, Gymnastics Project Coordinator, includes administering camps, clinics, and event set-up.

Bolen will miss Foxal, but says, she will be okay.

“It will be different without him,” she said. “But I can still hear the corrections he would make.”

He has coached four gymnasts who have scored a total of eight 10.0’s on bars, with the most recent coming in 2003 when Elizabeth Jillson was perfect in winning the Pac-10 Conference bars title. Jillson’s conference title marked the fifth gymnast and seventh total Pac-10 title on the event under his guidance.

“Dick has been a wonderful asset to OSU gymnastics for a long time,” Head Coach Tanya Chaplin said. “The student-athletes love working for and working with him, and his presence in the gym will be greatly missed.”

Foxal has earned West Regional Assistant Coach of the Year honors five times, including this past season when he helped freshman Jen Kesler to become a second team All-American in her first season of collegiate gymnastics.

“Watching him move on is hard,” Piro said. “And it might be hard for him, gymnastics was his life. But its time.”

Prior to his arrival in Corvallis, Foxal was the head coach at Montana State from 1984 until the program was discontinued in 1987. He was selected as the Mountain West Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1985. He was also the men’s head coach at Central Washington and the University of Washington.

“He’s the greatest,” Fitzgerald said. “He cares about us as people, not just gymnasts.”