Putting on the dawg: campus community celebrates coach’s Hall of Fame induction

As she and her teammates warmed up for the 4x400m relay at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship meet in Winnipeg this past March, says Nicole Sassine, “We tried not to think about what was at stake.”

The Lancer women were on the verge of winning their fourth straight national title, but Guelph was just a few points behind as the final event loomed.

“I heard a whistle from head coach Dennis Fairall and when I looked over, he shouted Nicole, we’ve got to get third!” Sassine recalled Thursday at a campus reception honouring Fairall on the eve of his induction in the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame. “It was one of those Dennis moments.”

Sassine and her team did win the bronze medal, setting a school record in the process and securing the women’s track and field CIS championship for Windsor. It was Fairall’s 24th national title in his 27 years as head coach of Lancer cross country and track and field. He also boasts 43 Ontario University Athletics championships. That record earned him a call to the hall of fame; he is one of three founders joining five athletes to be honoured at an awards ceremony October 13 at the Caboto Club.

Still, says Sassine, Fairall has more than his trophy case to show his successes.

“He cares a lot about his athletes and gets very involved in our lives.”

For his part, Fairall takes as much pride in Sassine’s education—BHK 2011 and B.Ed 2012—as he does in her athletic accomplishments.

“I always remember that they are student athletes, and student comes first,” he says. “It is fantastic to see them go out and become teachers, doctors, physiotherapists. I thank them not only for the competitions, but for their contributions to society.”

Thursday’s reception also saw the unveiling of the Big Dawg Spirit Award, which will go each year to the male and female track and field athletes that best showcase spirit and Lancer pride. “Big Dawg” is a nickname for Fairall.

Besides Fairall, the founders to be inducted October 13 include Herman football and Windsor Mic Macs baseball coach Harry Lumley and Massey cross county and swimming coach Lou Pocock. The athlete inductees are former NHLers Bob Boughner and Tie Domi, former Major League Baseball player Stubby Clapp, former CFLer Tony Dennis and former Canadian amateur women’s golf champion Laura-Henderson-Matthews.