The track at Newport Harbor High School’s Davidson Field will soon be named the Bob Hailey Memorial Track and Field in honor of the late coach and biology teacher known around campus as “Uncle Bob.”
The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to name the area in honor of Hailey, the school’s track and field coach from 1960 to 1979.
Roger Carlson, a former Costa Mesa resident and Daily Pilot sports editor who covered Hailey and his teams, approached the board in May with the idea to rename the track.
The district sought input about the idea from the public, employees and district families through an online survey. Of the 251 responses, 93.6% supported the renaming, while 6.4% opposed it.
“He taught and coached with focus and intensity, always setting the bar high, expecting the best out of every student in the classroom and athlete on the field,” James Swick, a Newport Harbor alumnus from the class of 1973, wrote in the survey. “But what impacted me and so many others the most was the genuine passion, wisdom, honesty and humor he demonstrated in doing so.
“He inspired and motivated his student-athletes to aim higher than simply being good. He stoked the fire within all of us to tenaciously pursue greatness.”
A nine-member committee of principals and parents from each of the district’s four zones made the final recommendation to implement the change.
During his coaching tenure, Hailey produced six Sunset League titles, including five between 1973 and 1979. The Sailors also reeled off dual-meet winning streaks of 26 and 29 during that stretch.
Hailey also was a biology teacher until he retired in 1996. Former students wrote in the survey that he taught the subject with passion and was a source of encouragement for every teenager in his class.
Alan Gaddis, a Newport Harbor alumnus from the class of 1980, wrote that he competed in track and field under Hailey and that his brother and sister took his biology class.
“During times of Newport Harbor nostalgia, at the Thanksgiving table or local family gatherings, Bob Hailey’s name is seemingly always brought up with reverence and positive stories,” Gaddis wrote.
In 2013, an alumnus donated a new record board chronicling track and field achievements. At the bottom left corner is a small plaque honoring Hailey.
The same year, Hailey was inducted into the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame, receiving a lifetime membership pass to any sporting event in the section. Hailey missed the ceremony because of mobility issues resulting from an injury to his right leg that he suffered in a car accident in 1979.
He died in November 2013 at age 78 from complications stemming from the crash.
In May this year, Hailey was posthumously inducted into the Newport Harbor High School Hall of Fame.
The district will celebrate the renaming of the track during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September.