After long process, Fairmont decides Miller is the man to tackle the job

Newly+hired+head+coach%2C+Dave+Miller%2C+addresses+the+2016+Fairmont+football+team+for+the+first+time+in+the+weight+room.

Photo: Jeff Allen

Newly hired head coach, Dave Miller, addresses the 2016 Fairmont football team for the first time in the weight room.

On a windy February day, head strength and conditioning coach Randy Swain called for two laps. As the Fairmont football team took off for their warm up run, the “Coach Miller” era was born.

Nearly six years ago, on April 22nd, 2010, the “Coach Rock” era had begun. This past December, after six seasons, it came to an abrupt halt.

Fairmont’s head football coach position went vacant just before the school’s winter break and it made immediate waves throughout the school. The non-renewal of the coaching supplemental contract for former head coach, Andrew Aracri, had students and teachers guessing why.

Fairmont High School Athletic Director, Chris Weaver, said that after six seasons, it was time for a transition.

“We’re a big-time division one high school, and I think there’s an expectation with all of our programs to continue to go out there and set the bar really high,” Weaver said. “I don’t think anybody here is saying we need to win a state championship, but obviously there’s an expectation to compete.”

The Firebird football team was 16-44 in Aracri’s stint as head coach. Regardless of wins and losses, Aracri left his mark at Fairmont on all faculty, staff, and students. His love for the Firebirds and involvement in all aspects of the district did not go unnoticed. Despite parting ways, Weaver said there was nothing personal against Aracri who is a Fairmont alum and Hall of Fame member as well as a teacher in the building. 

“The difficult nature of this business and my job, is you have to have those difficult conversations. But we do it because we want what’s best for kids,” Weaver said.

After the non-renewal of Aracri, an intense search began for Fairmont’s next head coach. Weaver compiled an abundant amount of index cards from current athletes on the team. These index cards were distributed to the players encouraging them to jot down a few characteristics that are important in a head football coach at Fairmont.

“Their feedback allowed us to narrow our search to the applicants who are best suited to take over this position,” Weaver said.

Weaver and the selection committee welcomed the athlete’s feedback on hiring a new coach. “It’s an exciting process,” Weaver said. “I told the athletes, ‘we’re going to find the best coach for the Firebirds and when we do, I hope you’re ready, because there’s no more excuses.’”

After gathering the feedback of the athletes, Weaver and his committee got started with the search to find the right coach for the program.

Fairmont was required to post the opening of the position throughout the school district and leave it open for a certain amount of time. Once that period of time elapsed, they then opened it up to the general public. A deadline was set for applications to be submitted and at the end of the posting, Weaver had a plentiful amount of resumes and applications to sort through. Weaver put together a qualified committee that helped navigate through the piles in search of the Firebirds new coach.

Fairmont narrowed down the list and called applicants for interviews.

Assistant Athletic Director and varsity wrestling coach, Frank Baxter, was part of the first committee. Baxter said that the process started with the candidates giving an open-ended presentation. “They were allowed to present to us their vision of the program,” Baxter said.

Weaver reassured that the task of interviewing was taken as serious as possible and was carried out in multiple rounds. “It’s a big decision, there’s a lot of factors that go into it and we want to make sure we do everything the right way,” Weaver said.

After the interview process ended and Fairmont’s athletic department had their select few, that’s when it got extremely technical.

“You have to decide if they’re going to teach, if so what they’re going to teach, if they have kids you have to decide if they’re planning to send the kids to our schools, and they might be moving,” Weaver said. “It involves a lot more people than just myself and it’s a time consuming, expensive transition. We do it to be excited about the future, and you do it professionally because that’s how you do things here (at Fairmont).”

Many qualities were expected of the new head coach such as discipline, leadership, and football knowledge. But there was one particular characteristic that Weaver searched for among others, and that was connection.

“As an athlete, which I was, I wanted to be apart of something that I felt was bigger than myself, I wanted to be inspired by a coach that would give me the opportunities to be successful, to run through a wall,” Weaver said. “For me, that’s what I was looking for, connection. Someone that saw football not only as a way to educate kids but to teach them how to give everything they have not only for themselves, but for the program.”

After a long process, searching for the perfect coach, the athletic department selected and pursued their candidate. A multiple week procedure led to a hire.

On February 2nd, 2016, Dave Miller was approved by the Kettering Board of Education to be the Head Coach of Fairmont High School’s football program.

Miller is accustomed to success, and is coming to Fairmont from Covington High School. He brings with him an impressive resume as head coach including an 86-20 record through 9 seasons at Covington. In each of those 9 seasons, Miller led the Buccs to the state playoffs. Miller is also a teacher, coming from Beavercreek High School where he taught World Studies. Miller will teach Social Studies at Fairmont starting in the fall of 2016.

Weaver thinks that Miller’s ability to connect, combined with his football know-how and experience will breed success at Fairmont.

“Coach Miller repeatedly separated himself from the rest of the field by demonstrating to the whole interview committee not only his knowledge of the game, but his passion and commitment to developing relationships with student athletes,” Weaver said.

On February 3rd, the day after his hiring, Fairmont’s 2016 football team gathered around the newly acquired coach, while he addressed them for the first time. For a lot of them, it was their first time in the weight room this off-season.

Almost every year, football conditioning starts in early January, and an ample amount of kids are there to work. This year didn’t see the same results as many athletes did not take advantage of the optional conditioning, given there was no head coach in charge. According to Swain, who was running the team’s conditioning program during the search for a new coach, only about 20-25 kids were there consistently to workout.

Weaver understands that showing up to those workouts took commitment.

“I hope that if those kids are willing to walk in those doors with Coach Miller and Coach Swain that they understand what the expectation is and I think that’s going to be a standard of excellence,” Weaver said. “I think that once our athletes understand that and buy into that, than the sky’s the limit, because Coach Miller will put us in positions to be successful.”

According to Miller, he and Coach Swain have united upon the standard they want to set for Fairmont football. “I think he and I are on the same page, no question about it,” Miller said.

As far as the team goes, Miller is very confident that things will turn around for Fairmont.

“There’s a core group that have a good attitude right now, and when you watch them on film the last couple of years, there’s no question that it’s there. But the mindset has to change, and it will,” Miller said.

Football put aside there’s something bigger that attracted Miller to Kettering, something beyond football and academics.

“It’s a great community with great kids and great families,” Miller said. “I moved from here when I was twelve, and now I’m making my return home.”