Former, current Hornets players, coaches to be honored with induction into state's sports shrine at Springfield, joining late long-time head coach Bob Fairchild, Jan. 26, 2020
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s football program will become immortalized in state sports annals late next month when it joins its chief architect, the late Bob Fairchild, in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
The Springfield-located state sports shrine announced its 2020 class of honorees of 12 individuals, three high school programs, and one team late last week.
The CHS gridiron program’s inclusion will recognize the coaches and players and community in general for the roles they have played in making Hornets football one of the state’s elite programs since the recently-deceased Fairchild, himself personally inducted into the state Hall in 2002, assumed the head coaching duties for the first of 35 seasons in 1963.
“It’s definitely an honor for our program and all the players and coaches that have been a part of it for a long time,” states Phil Willard, one of the top Hornets players from Fairchild’s first decade as coach and then his coaching successor for 20 years.
“… We probably wouldn’t be even talking about this if it weren’t for coach Fairchild and what he accomplished. That’s really a testament to what he got started.”
Bob Fairchild died in late October and, even if word of this honor had come before his passing, age-related illness and debilitation likely would left hm unable to revel in this new and prestigious recognition his and many others’ efforts over the half-century plus had reaped.
“I think he would have been very excited for the community of Chillicothe and the players,” Dave Fairchild, his son and former CHS player and – like his father – already a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame member individually for his own coaching career, reflected for the C-T Monday.
“This is an opportunity for the players and the community to be recognized, so I think he would have been very, very proud of that.”
Given his first-hand personal experience of being an enshrinee, D. Fairchild said of how the community and everyone who has been associated with Hornets football through the years should feel, “It’s a great honor.”
He observed that, while his father might have been the driving force behind the establishing of the program’s elite status, sole credit did not belong to him.
“I think you have to credit the coaches and everything along the way, but I think you have to give a great deal of credit to the players that went through the program and those guys being willing to be coached,” D. Fairchild shared. “And also the parents of the players and their commitment to the program and then to the entire community in general.
“… It takes everybody to be on board with any kind of success you have.”
According to Kary Booher, media relations director for the Hall, all former and current CHS football players and coaches purchasing a ticket to attend the Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, enshrinement ceremony at Springfield, will receive a plaque with their name engraved on it and also will be introduced individually on stage during the ceremony. Tickets are $150 per person.
According to retired CHS head coach Phil Willard, any players interested in attending is asked to notify Dan Nagel, CHS principal and athletics director, at the school (660-646-0700).
The Chillicothe program’s tradition of on-field success, integrity, and high standards established by Fairchild was carried forward for the next 20 years by Willard and now has extended to the current coaching tenure of Tim Rulo, who guided CHS to its 27th state-playoffs appearance this past fall.
According to the MSHOF news release announcing the program’s selection for enshrinement, Hornets football “forged its place in Show-Me state sports history by playing for seven state championships and winning five state titles.”
Chillicothe won the 1970, 1972, 1978, and 1991 state crowns in Class 3A/3, as well as the 1985 Class 4 title. The Hornets finished as state Class 3A/3 runnersup in 1988 and 1993.
In addition to the 27 state-playoffs berths secured, Chillicothe also has won 23 conference championships, most recently in 2017. The 27 state-playoffs appearances remain among the 10 most in state pigskin history.
Adding to the program’s remarkable stature is that it had only two head coaches in a 55-years stretch, a level of stability and consistency unmatched by any program in Missouri and, perhaps, even nationally.
Chillicothe graduate Fairchild guided the program from 1963-97, with his teams earning 287 wins, or 117 more than in the previous 50 years at the school. The Fairchild era included 15 playoff berths and 19 conference championships.
Willard, a standout player on outstanding Hornets’ teams in the late 1960s, went on to a coaching career at multiple other schools before returning to CHS as an assistant to Fairchild in the early 1990s. He took over as head coach following Fairchild’s retirement in 1998 and led the Hornets to a 144-74 record during his 20-years run before retiring after the 2017 season.
“(Coach Fairchild) built (CHS’ consistent success) off fundamentals and repetition. That was the way he coached,” Willard details. “He made sure you could block and tackle. We did that probably as well as anybody for a long time.
“On top of that, hard work by the coaching staff in scouting and watching film and those kinds of things, but, really, the fundamentals he established with the blocking and tackling really carried over. I think, if you talk to any of the (ex-Hornets) players that played in college, a lot of times they felt like … they were ahead of the game when it came to those two fundamentals.”
By establishing, through his own example, high standards of commitment to excellence in not only playing the game, but also caring for players’ futures, Willard says his predecessor created an atmosphere which naturally attracted students and the community to it. From that organically grew a great and proud program.
“He created a program you’re going to be proud of and something you wanted to pass on to the next players and charge them with taking over a great program and trying to sustain that,” he says, from his unique perspective as a former player, a player’s parent, assistant coach, and head coach.
“For the most part, that has happened.”
In addition to the individuals, programs, and teams to be inducted into the state Hall, President & Executive Director Jerald Andrews announced the Hall of Fame also will honor William Jewell College coach Larry Holley with its Pinnacle Award.
The MSHOF Class of 2020 also will include retired Kansas City Chiefs great Derrick Johnson, just-retired Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, former University of Missouri and National Football League lineman Justin Smith – a Jefferson City product, ex-St. Louis Cardinals standout Terry Pendleton, and former big-league and Missouri State University pitcher Brad Ziegler, among others.
The Jan. 20 dinner/program event at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield will begin at 5 p.m. It will be preceded by an 11 a.m. reception at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in southeast Springfield and a 4 p.m. reception at University Plaza.