WBEJ announcer Dale Fair recalls terrific 1970s Cyclones season
Published 8:48 am Thursday, July 2, 2015
Dale Fair is entering his 34th season calling Elizabethton Cyclones football games on the radio with John Holtsclaw on WBEJ, and while he is quick to name off some of the former great Cyclones, he leaves off one name.
The 2015 Carter County Sports Hall of Fame Inductee rushed for over 3,000 yards during his time on the gridiron for Betsy, which ended after the 1972 season. During his senior year, he was named to the All-Southern team and also earned honorable mention All-American. But with all those accolades, Fair still humbly deflects his acclaim.
“The older you get, the better you were,” Fair said. “I don’t even feel like I deserve to be in it, I played with a great team and some great blockers, but to be inducted is a great honor.”
Fair joins former teammate Danny “Pert” Jenkins who was inducted in 2013, and they were two of nine seniors on the 1972, six of those nine earned Division I football scholarships.
“I may be a little biased — the Witten teams were great — but we had one of the best teams in the history of Elizabethton High School,” Fair said. “We had one of those once-in-a-lifetime teams. The only thing was that Bristol had one of those once-in-a-century teams.”
That Tennessee High team won back-to-back state championships in 1971 and 1972, and they won those games convincingly, with 52-0 and 39-6 victories during their title games. But they had a much tougher time with Elizabethton in 1972.
The Cyclones lost by less than a touchdown and that was the one loss the Cyclones had on their 9-1 record.
“They had instituted the Houston veer, and nobody, not even colleges, knew how to defend it,” Fair said. “They were just great. My senior year they were ranked number one in the nation, and we lost by less than a touchdown and had the ball at the 4-yard line, we just couldn’t score.”
Fair recalls there being 20-plus college scouts at that game, and he also recalls some of his recruiting trips that he took during his senior season. He took trips to Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Florida and he even talked one-one-one with University of Alabama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant.
He recalls his conversation with Bryant, who mumbled almost to the point that Fair couldn’t understand him, but he did remember one thing that the Bear told him.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if you can make the team here, but if you make the team, you are going to play for the national championship,’ ” Fair said.
Fair decided to continue his career at the University of Tennessee and lined up in the same backfield as Condredge Holloway and Stanley Morgan during the Vols’ 1974 Liberty Bowl Championship season, but a knee injury going into his junior year ended his career.
The proudest thing Fair took from UT was the earning the Academic All-SEC award in 1974.
But those are the times that Fair has let go of.
Now he focuses on being an elder at Elizabethton Church of Christ and being a grandfather, father and husband to his family.
“I have to say, sports has to come way down the list,” Fair said. “I enjoyed playing, I enjoy watching, but my first love is my service to the Lord.”
While you will frequently find him at his church, on Friday nights you will be able to tune into the station and hear that familiar voice talking about football, but really just watching a game with his friend.
“I told John I would help him a little bit,” Fair recalls about that day in 1981. “My thing is that I am not known to speak during the ball games, so for me to talk during the entire football games, it is a little odd for my children.”
But Fair has loved the time he has spent in the booth, including the first time he saw a lanky, future hall of fame play in Brown-Childress Stadium.
“I knew the first time I saw Jason (Witten) play as a sophomore that he was going to be good and that he would be playing on Sundays, unless of course an injury happened,” Fair said. “But I didn’t know that he would go to the NFL before his senior season and be a 10-time Pro Bowler.”
But Jason may not have been the best Witten to ever take the field, according to Fair.
“I’ve seen some good players come through here,” Fair said. “Shawn Witten was the best player I’ve seen come through here. He’s the best high school player I’ve seen. He was like Jerry West, when the game was on the line, you either wanted him to be catching it, throwing it or running it.”
Fair, who is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer at Carter County Bank, isn’t sure when his time in the booth will end, but he is sure that it will be sooner than later.
“I enjoy that, but I don’t know how much longer I will do it,” Fair said. “I’ve got some grandsons that are about to start midget football and I’d like to see them play as much as possible.”