Former head coach of University of Windsor's cross country, track & field programs dies at 67

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Renowned University of Windsor head coach Dennis Fairall or "Big Dawg," as he was known, died Friday at 67 years old.

Fairall coached the UWindsor Lancers cross country and track & field programs for 30 years, according to a news release from the university. He died after battling progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) — a rare degenerative brain disease that effects mobility and speech.

In 1974, Fairall began his coaching career, joining UWindsor in 1985 and staying until his retirement in 2015. During that time, he came to be known as one of the best track and field coaches in Canadian history.

While at the university he also coached several national teams and served as head coach of Team Canada at the 2005 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships in Windsor.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Kryk
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Kryk

Under his guidance, Team Canada earned its highest medal count in the event's history.

By the end of his career, Fairall had led the Lancers to 25 Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships, 45 Ontario University Athletics titles and has 65 combined track and cross-country coach of the year awards as head coach.

His Lancer teams had also won 22 of the past 25 provincial championships in men's track and field and 17 of the past 25 championships in women's track and field.

"His record of accomplishment put the University of Windsor and the Lancers track and field and cross country programs on the map. But that was not what made him special," the university's director of athletics Mike Havey said in a news release. "He was a humble and incredibly effective team builder and collaborator. He positively impacted so many student-athletes and community groups over the years that keeping count was impossible."

Melissa Bishop
Melissa Bishop

In February 2016, the university even renamed the fieldhouse after him, calling it the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.

"His coaching tree is wide and deep; and that impact will continue to be felt for years. When you met with Dennis you always felt better afterwards. He made you feel good. That was his gift. We were lucky to have him as a colleague," said Havey.