Rogers High School 
Alumni Association


When the Navy rocked Newport, so did Rogers High School

Reprinted from the Providence Journal

NEWPORT, RI — I went looking for the past the other day, went looking for the school that used to be a major player in high school basketball back there in the early 1960s, back when the game was, in so many ways, the center of my world.

Went looking for Rogers High School.

In my memory, the school was a showcase back then, built only a few years before.

It was what was called "campus style" back then, an architectural move away from the old brick buildings that spoke of discipline, structure and a vice principal who roamed the corridors while slapping a large ruler against the palm of his hand.

Somehow it only seemed fitting back then.

For in so many of the important ways, Rogers always seemed to be the gold standard of Rhode Island high school sports at the time. For walking into their shiny new gym back then, which always seemed like some smaller version of Alumni Hall on the Providence College campus, was like walking into Rhode Island high school basketball's big time. Was it any wonder they always seemed to be good?

Now the school just looks old, an old school in an old city. Complete with sports teams that are nowhere near as good as they once were, as if the glory days are all in the past, just memories and rust.

"Rogers changed from the '90s until now," says Jim Cawley, the Rogers athletic director.

And Newport has changed, too.

The city's population is down from a high of 47,000 in 1960 (the peak due largely to a bustling naval base) to about 25,000 today. No big surprise. For in all the important ways, Newport is very different from what it was like when I was a kid growing up in Barrington, back when the chance to go to Newport was like having a passport to a different world.

"In the early '60s there were 1,200 kids at Rogers, the Navy was a huge presence, and it was a totally different school than it is now," says Don Kaull, the one-time URI basketball player who was a huge star at Rogers back then (Rogers won the state title in 1962-63 and lost in the championship game the season before), even appearing on some high school All-American teams back when Rogers was the best high school team in the state. Back when Rogers almost always seemed to be good at everything.

Time, and the growth of the two communities to the north, Middletown and Portsmouth, which were both remarkably different then — lots of farmland and open space, Portsmouth not even big enough to have its own high school then. Now it's a booming suburb, with its own high school with more than 900 students. Call it Newport North. Enrollment at Rogers today is about 650 students, and Middletown has about 600.

But to see Rogers now is to see an old school deep into the back nine. No wonder. It was a showcase when it was built, but that was way back in the late '50s, so many years of kids' feet walking through, so many years of use, so much change.

And so much change to the city, too.

Nowhere near as many Navy kids in Newport as there once were. Not as many Navy veterans living in the city as there once were. A high school nowhere near as big as it used to be, wearing its age. And a city with lots of public housing.

This is the side of Newport that doesn't make the travel brochures, of course, the side of Newport that's still there when all the summer people go over the bridges on Labor Day. So is it any wonder Rogers no longer is the high school sports powerhouse it once was, the school that won 10 state football championships from 1972 to 1990?

We live in such a different sports world. One of personal coaches and elite travel teams. Of year-round training and showcase camps. Kaull — who now calls URI basketball games on the radio — is right, of course. Things change.

Maintained by Joe Ruggeri, Class of '78.