The statistics, undefeated seasons, conference and district championships all make Don Bailey a deserving and obvious choice for induction into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame next month.
If you like numbers, look to Bailey’s stellar 303-83-8 record.
Do winning streaks impress you? The veteran coach has had nine undefeated regular seasons.
How about conference titles?
The Rangers have won nine Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference titles and three Mountain Conference crowns under Bailey.
Of course, there are seven District 6 Class AA championships, one 6-AAA title (eight district championships overall) and four Region III crowns.
In 1994, the Rangers advanced to the PIAA Class AA state championship game, falling to Mount Carmel in double overtime.
All of the above information fits nicely into a hall of fame resume.
But there’s more to Bailey’s success than wins and losses.
He will enter his 37th season as the Rangers head coach this fall. That’s basically a lifetime considering the number of coaching vacancies that surface each year. The expectations, seemingly endless hours on the field and in the film room as well as all that time coaches must spend away from their families has led to a lot of turnover in the profession.
But Bailey has remained at Forest Hills through the tough times, the good times and the exceptionally good times. During his previous 36 years on the sideline, Bailey and his staff have molded young men into winners on and off the field while building a program that is the pride of folks in Sidman, St. Michael South Fork, Salix, Beaverdale and anywhere within a few miles of the high school field.
“Don’s teams are always extremely well-prepared both physically and as far as their scheme is concerned,” said Central Cambria coach Ken Bussard, himself a veteran of 22 seasons. “His kids play the game hard, but they’re gentlemen too. I’ve seen first hand, especially with my son playing (last season) how you can be extreme competitors on the field, but as soon as that game is over and you see each other in another setting or in another sport, and you pal around together. That’s a tribute and a testament to Don and how he approaches the game. It is a game, but there are bigger things in life, too.”
In 37 years he’s also impacted the school district as a teacher, assistant high school principal, high school principal, director of education and, for the past nine years, as superintendent of schools at Forest Hills.
“It’s a neat story that you don’t see happen too often,” Brandon Bailey said of his father’s lifelong commitment to his home district. “I’ve learned a lot from him. You have to treat people right and treat them like you want to be treated.”
Forest Hills and its predecessors (South Fork, Adams and Triangle) had a solid tradition prior to Bailey’s arrival.
Before he coached the Rangers, Bailey played football, basketball and baseball for Forest Hills.
He graduated in 1969 and took a teaching-assistant coaching job at his alma mater in 1973.
A year later, Bailey was head coach of the Rangers.
“I go back farther than anybody with him,” said Bishop Carroll’s Chuck Sponsky, chairman of the PSFCA Hall of Fame. “I coached him for three years at Forest Hills. He coached for me for one year as an assistant at Forest Hills.
“I knew from my first contact with him that he was a person that had a lot of football ability. He certainly has developed through the years into being one of the elite coaches in the area.”
Since then, Bailey has helped the Rangers program evolve into one that is recognized not only throughout District 6 but also across much of the state.
He’s one of only nine coaches in the state with 300 or more victories.
He’s been the Pennsylvania Coach of the Year (1983), a Big 33 assistant coach (1982) and the West head coach in the East-West game (2003).
Bailey has been LHAC Coach of the Year eight times, Southern Alleghenies Coach of the Year 10 times and Tribune-Democrat Coach of the Year three times. He’s also had the experience of coaching two sons, Brandon, now coach at Richland, and Derek. Football has been a family affair for Don and his wife, Diane.
“It is a unique perspective I have from playing for him, from two seasons coaching with him after I got out of college and then coaching against him,” Brandon Bailey said. “He is so prepared and he is able to make those game-time adjustments probably better than anyone I’ve coached against at any level.”
Shortly after Forest Hills had a run of four consecutive District 6 titles in the early 1990s, Tyrone coach John Franco said in an interview before a playoff game that he modeled his program after Forest Hills. As the decade progressed, Tyrone became a district and statewide power.
Central Cambria’s Bussard, like many coaches in the LHAC, also watches the Rangers closely.
“There are a number of things that I’ve looked to see how Forest Hills has done those things, and I tried to pattern my program after them,” Bussard said. “That’s the greatest form of flattery.”
Induction into the The PSFCA Hall of Fame certainly will rank right up there, too.
The induction ceremony will be on June 18 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. Bailey will be among six coaches inducted into the Hall, which has inducted 238 coaches since 1986.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.