FAIRFIELD — This time he’s leaving of his own accord – but with a heavy heart.
Saying he couldn’t give the program the time it “deserves,” Eric Barber resigned earlier this week after one year in his second stint as Fairfield High football coach.
The Falcons were 1-8 in 2012 under Barber, who wasn’t hired until July and had a roster of just more than 20 players, many of whom had never played before. He was 4-16 in 2004 and 2005 before not being rehired.
Dealing with an illness in his family often kept Barber away from the Falcons last fall and he felt it best to step down early in the offseason.
“I couldn’t give them the time they deserve,” Barber said. “They deserve a good coach that will give them everything. I’m not in a position to give them the full time they need.
“Everything’s in place: the (athletic director, Eddie Wilson) is awesome, the principal (Tim Halloran) is awesome. . . . I hated to leave, but had to, I didn’t have the time.”
“I think he had a rough year and I think the time commitment, given his family situation, was just a little too much for him,” Wilson said. “He felt it was in the best interests of the program that he resign so that someone who could devote the necessary time could move in.”
Statistically, 2012 was one of the most difficult for the Falcons, who were winless in league play (0-5) for the first time since 1976. With most opponents having twice as many players who also had the benefit of full offseason training, it was a numbers game the red, white and black couldn’t win.
Yet Barber said he has no complaints.
“I enjoyed the process, I enjoyed teaching kids who never played football – the vast majority,” he said. “I enjoyed watching them grow, enjoyed the process. The kids, I can’t say enough good things about them. They made it fun. Despite the record, they made it fun. Nobody quit, nobody made excuses. They have a bright future because the attitude is right.”
The Falcons scored first in their first four games, but won only one, rallying for 12 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Richmond, 20-14 on Sept. 21.
“We took the lead quite a few times on teams and just ran out of gas,” Barber said. “We got up double digits on a couple teams and couldn’t hold the lead on them.”
Unlike last year when Barber’s hiring was delayed until the summer because the Fairfield-Suisun School District was undecided about cutting high school sports, Wilson can proceed almost immediately in finding a replacement. Still, it’s not a quick process.
“We’ll push for it as quickly as we can,” Wilson said. “It’s a bit of a complex process. There are quite a few steps that we have to go through. We’re hoping we’ll be able to initiate the process relatively soon.
“There’s lots to be done and then there’s the waiting game as well. The timing is good in the sense that we have a lot of time, but sadly, I imagine that it will take us a lot of time as well.”
Barber’s replacement will take over a program that has had just two winning seasons and playoff appearances since Desmond Bishop and Quinton Ganther, both of whom reached the NFL, led the Falcons to the 2001 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game. That capped a run of 16 straight winning seasons.
“We’re going to be aggressive and push forward as quickly as we’re allowed to,” Wilson said. “We’ll try to find a qualified candidate interested in building a program.”
At the very least, Barber helped keep the program alive and allow it to compete another day, an accomplishment in itself in that there was talk of simply pulling the plug.
“It was about holding the program together, playing the nine games on the schedule and competing,” he said. “I’d like to think we competed and played hard. . . . I thought long and hard about (resigning). Instead of being emotional, I had to be realistic and practical about it. I just have a lot of personal things going on I have to take of.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-46, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.