Vikings coach Dee Faircloth contemplates life after retirement

Published 11:47 pm Thursday, December 17, 2009

VIDALIA — Always quick to give a witty one-liner, Vidalia High School head football coach Dee Faircloth summed up his latest announcement with humor: “The old fart’s leaving, period.”

After 42 years serving as the Vikings’ head coach, Faircloth will be stepping down from the position effective today.

Faircloth, who had prostate cancer three years ago, had some trouble with his health this fall and missed a game and practice sessions. And it’s his health that has led to his decision to retire, he said.

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“It’s just time to go,” Faircloth said. “You know when that time comes. When you’re not able to do the things you used to, everyone realizes when they’ve reached that point.”

Faircloth amassed a 249-187-6 record as head coach of the Vikings. To honor Faircloth, the school renamed its stadium Dee Faircloth Stadium in October 2005.

But letting go of Faircloth will not be easy for the Vidalia faculty and students, Principal Rick Brown said.

“He is Vidalia High School football. He means a lot to both athletes and non-athletes. This decision was his decision — I would never try to force him out. In fact, I tried to talk him out of it several times.”

For Faircloth, retirement means having to let go of more than just coaching kids and teaching physical education.

“Forty-two years is long enough,” Faircloth said. “What’s that saying? ‘If you want it done like you want it, do it yourself?’ I’m that kind of person.

“Because of that, I’d spend every Saturday up here tending to the field, cleaning up the locker room, and the like. All of my holidays, I’d spend here. When you’re obsessive-compulsive, that’s what happens.”

For Faircloth, a 42-year stay is not something he envisioned when he first got into coaching.

“When I first got here as an assistant coach, I was going to get my feet wet and move on,” Faircloth said.

“My dad was a coach, and he was always on he move. After being an assistant here for a year, Coach (Don) Alonzo left, and they put me up as head coach. I said I’d stay, but I didn’t realize I’d stay 42 years.”

Not wanting to continually get reacclimated to his surroundings was a big reason Faircloth didn’t take a nomadic approach to coaching.

“I had the opportunity to leave for better money, but didn’t. Because of my dad, I did enough moving and re-meeting people when I was younger to last me.”

Faircloth said there have been many highlights to his career as head coach, but the most important thing to him is the difference he’s been able to make to his players and students.

“All of my children are girls, and people would always ask me, ‘Coach, do you ever regret not having a son?’ I’d tell them, ‘I’ve raised a lot of sons through the years.’

“I’ve had great athletes, great kids at Vidalia. They say our athletes are a cut above the rest, and I believe that.”

With Faircloth stepping down, Vidalia will soon turn its attention to seeking a potential replacement.

“We’ll open up the process for applications,” Brown said. “In addition to being a coach, we’ll also have to fill a teacher’s spot, so they’ll have to have those qualifications.

“According to how many people apply, we’ll narrow it down, then form a committee made up of faculty and some parents to help make the selection.”

Faircloth said he doesn’t foresee any trouble in finding something to do when he’s retired.

“I’ll probably hand out buggies at Walmart,” Faircloth joked.

“When you retire, that means you quit working. I’ll watch a lot of ball games on TV and be in the running for yard of the month every month.

“I was an only child for 15 years, so I think I know how to play (by myself). I’ll find something to do.”