George Fairhart, seen here watching his team warm up for a game in 2014, is leaving Eatonville High School after 24 years as its football coach. (The Dispatch)
George Fairhart, seen here watching his team warm up for a game in 2014, is leaving Eatonville High School after 24 years as its football coach. (The Dispatch)
By Pat Jenkins
The Dispatch
After 24 years as Eatonville High School's football coach, George Fairhart has decided to move on and become the coach at Gig Harbor High.
According to published reports and an announcement on the Gig Harbor athletics Facebook page last week, Fairhart will replace Aaron Chantler, who resigned in February. Gig Harbor after five seasons at the Tides' helm. They won two league titles and reached the state 4A tournament in four of those seasons.
"At this time in my life and career, I was ready to embrace a new challenge," Fairhart said. "The Gig Harbor coaching position seemed like a great opportunity at the right time."
Officials with the Eatonville School District, where Fairhart also is the athletic director, had no information last week on how and how soon Fairhart will be replaced.
The district is waiting for the formality of a resignation letter from Fairhart "before plans can go into motion," said superintendent Krestin Bahr. She added that Eatonville High principal John Paul Colgan "will be working hard this spring to establish a process" for hiring Fairhart's successor.
Fairhart said he will continue his teaching, coaching and athletic director duties until the end of the school year in June.
"I've been very fortunate to coach and teach at Eatonville for (a total of) 28 years," he said, "I've enjoyed my time here, and I'm proud of the football program that has been built, the success we have had, and the relationships that have been developed and maintained."
As one of the longest-tenured football coaches at a single school in Washington, Fairhart’s Eatonville teams won 169 games and played in 13 state tournaments. In what turned out to be his last year with the Cruisers, they again reached the 2A state tourney and posted an 8-3 record.
In a particularly banner season, the Cruisers reached the semifinals of the 1A state tournament, losing to Cascade Christian (the eventual champion) and finishing with an 11-1 record. Eatonville got there in part by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force an overtime and then winning with a two-point conversion 29-28 over Mount Baker in one of the most thrilling victories of the Fairhart era. Eatonville also won the Evergreen League championship that season.
Disappointment came off the field for Fairhart and the Cruisers football program in 2016. A $19.4 million bond measure that was rejected by voters included a proposal to upgrade Eatonville’s football venue by replacing the wooden, deteriorating 80-year-old grandstand with a modern masonry and metal structure and installing a new field. District officials said the existing grandstand is structurally unsafe, and the field is sub-standard and excessively muddy during heavy rain, preventing Eatonville from hosting playoff games.
But Fairhart said his experience at Eatonville throughout the years has been a good one, which is making it difficult for  him to leave.
"The positive relationships we have built with kids, family, and staff are very important to me and always will be," he said. "I'm to sad to leave those behind and am grateful for the opportunity I've had to work with the students of EHS and the tremendous support I've had from the families, staff and community throughout the years."
Fairhart noted that "the decision to leave Eatonville has been a very difficult one for my family and me. It has been our school family and home for decades, and it would have been very easy to continue here."
Fairhart credited others for the Cruisers' success in football.
"You can't coach football by yourself, and I've been very lucky to have many great coaches and teachers who care about kids and their growth and development as young men who have shared this mission," he said. "We're in the people business, and my assistants have always respected and embraced that philosophy.We've created positive relationships that have allowed us to be very competitive every year, regardless of league or classification.
In addition to football, Fairhart has coached track and field at Eatonville. Student-athletes on those teams in past years included his daughter.
Fairhart’s new football team plays in the South Sound Conference. Last season, Gig Harbor was 6-5, finished third in the conference, and lost to Kamiakim in a first-round state tournament game.