Hart Fairclough, regarded as one of the best high school football coaches ever in Contra Costa County as he led the Mt. Diablo High football team through one of its most successful eras in the 1950s and 1960s, died recently at his home in Walnut Creek. He was 89.
Fairclough was the Red Devils' head coach from 1956-69 and led the team to five Diablo Valley Athletic League titles. He also taught math at Mt. Diablo before he moved to Ygnacio Valley High and then Northgate High. Fairclough served as commissioner of the DVAL from 1972 until his retirement in 1988.
Along the way he influenced countless lives, some of whom went on to play college football and others who became coaches in their own right.
Fairclough, named one of the Contra Costa Times' Top 20 Coaches of the 20th Century in 1999, grew up in Los Gatos and after he served three years in the Army during World War II, enrolled at Cal.
There, as an undergraduate, he served as team manager and studied under legendary Cal coach Pappy Waldorf before he became a junior varsity assistant at Oakland Tech, where he coached future 49ers quarterback John Brodie.
At Cal, Fairclough received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in physical education, and a teaching credential.
Fairclough arrived at Mt. Diablo in 1951 as a 26-year-old and served on the junior varsity staff. Former Cal All-American Rod Franz was hired as varsity coach and one of Franz's assistants was John Ralston, who would go on to coach Stanford and the Denver Broncos.
Although he never played organized football, Fairclough's ambition was to one day lead a team.
"I never played the game, " Fairclough said in a 2003 interview with this newspaper. "I went into high school at 81 pounds, came out at a whopping 103. But I loved the game."
Fairclough is a member of the Mt. Diablo High School Sports Hall of Fame, and the school's football field bears his name. He as also a honorary board member of the Concord Historical Society.
Fairclough was an innovator at the high school level, as players were given scouting reports and often watched film at lunchtime so they knew exactly what to expect from opponents.
"When I think about it," said Ralph Vallis, captain of Mt. Diablo's football team in 1964, in 2003, "he was so far ahead of people it was unbelievable."
Fairclough's wing-T offense produced 2,392 rushing yards during the 1960 championship season. In his first five years, Fairclough's teams had a league record of 22-3-1 and an overall mark of 31-9-2. As a track coach, Fairclough helped the Red Devils win DVAL titles in 1953, '55 and '56.
"We were very organized and very meticulous," Vallis said. "We did stuff I assumed everyone else did. I became a coach myself, and it wasn't until afterward I realized how far along we were than anybody else."
Fairclough's wife, Betty, died a few years ago. The couple had four daughters -- Ann, Kathryn, Susan and Carolyn.
There is no memorial service planned for Fairclough, per his request.