Fairview coaching great Jack Bestwick dies at 84, remembered by his former players

Former Fairview football coach Jack Bestwick, whose 21 seasons of sustained success with the Tigers resulted in the renaming of its stadium in his honor, died Monday at age 84.

Bestwick's death was confirmed by Farley Funeral Homes and Crematory in Venice, Florida, where he lived.

Bob Bestwick, a Charlotte, North Carolina, resident, also announced the loss of his father via his Facebook post.

“For my dad's players, coaches, students and friends, I'm sorry to announce that my father, Jack Bestwick, passed away overnight,” Bob Bestwick said. “As proud as I am at his vast list of accomplishments that included being in five halls of fame and having (Fairview's) football stadium named after him, I was mostly proud that I was his son.

“He was a great guy and my best friend, and I'm so thankful for the folks who saw him the same way.”

Burial will be private. However, Bob Bestwick wrote in his same Facebook post that his family plans to hold a memorial service in Erie County later this fall.

Burton Funeral Home in Erie is expected to handle those arrangements.

Fairview Athletic Director Lyndsay Foriska told the Erie Times-News the school will hold a ceremony and a moment of silence in Bestwick's memory before Friday's 7 p.m. football game between the Tigers and rival Girard.

It will take place at the same Fairview athletic complex that's formally honored him for 20 years, David Keck Field at Jack Bestwick Stadium. Many of the victories in Bestwick's career record of 163-45-8 were recorded there.

Bestwick, who was inducted into the Metropolitan Erie chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1994, was its second member who recently died.

Distance runner Barb Filutze, a member of the hall's 1987 class, died Aug. 20 at age 76.

More: Erie and USA Track and field Hall of Fame runner Barb Filutze dies at 76

Players' memories

Mercyhurst Prep, coached by Jeff Root, will host Warren at the same time as Friday's game between Fairview and Girard.

Root, a 1982 Fairview graduate, proudly called Bestwick his football coach for his four seasons there. He also deemed Bestwick the prime reason he wanted to follow him in that particular career path.

Root has held his position with the Lakers since 2014.

“It's easy to look at Coach Bestwick's win-loss record throughout his career," Root said. "But he also made a difference in so many young men's lives. He not only was a great football coach, but a great teacher.

“I was an OK football player, but I still love football to this day because of Coach Bestwick.”

Doug Graham, one of Root's classmates, also spoke with the Times-News about Bestwick's death. The Tampa, Florida, resident said that, like Root, he wanted to coach youth athletics at some point courtesy of Bestwick's influence.

Graham has done that in the years since. He's also active in sports as an employee of Bownet, a nonprofit that manufactures practice and training nets.

“I wasn't an all-county player, but I was decent. It was Coach Bestwick who brought that out of me," Graham said. "There probably wasn't a week that I didn't think about the guy, even in my adult life."

Of the dozen former Fairview football players who contacted the Times-News about Bestwick, perhaps none was hit harder by the news of his death than Mark Barchony, a 1986 graduate.

Barchony is the director of advancement for DuBois Central Catholic School. He had Bestwick as one of his mathematics teachers when he wasn't playing left guard for him on Fairview's offensive line.

Barchony had enjoyed occasional in-person contact with Bestwick before the 2020 pandemic because his parents had a condominium near Bestwick's in Venice.

“Most kids who played for Coach Bestwick would likely tell you that — with the exception of their own parents — he was the most influential person of our (formative) years. Maybe our lives,” Barchony said. “That's the most important thing I can say about him, even 30-plus years (after graduating).”

Glory days

The Tigers won or shared 12 Erie County League football championships over Bestwick's 21-year tenure.

However, it was Bestwick's 1992 team, his final one at Fairview, that's remembered the most by the school's fans. That's when the Tigers advanced to the semifinals of the PIAA Class 2A tournament.

East Allegheny ended Fairview's state championship hopes with a 34-13 victory at Sharon.

While the 1992 Tigers remain Bestwick's most notable team, two of his players from the mid-1970s were talented enough to crack football's professional ranks.

Tom Rozantz was a three-year starter at quarterback and helped Fairview claim two of its ECL titles. He was recruited by William & Mary College and then was invited as an undrafted free agent to the New Orleans Saints' training camp in 1979.

Rozantz competed in the Canadian Football League for two seasons, and then for different franchises in each of the United States Football League's three seasons of existence. That included time behind center with the 1984 Pittsburgh Maulers.

Steve Potter, a 1976 Fairview graduate, was a star linebacker for the Tigers. He excelled at that same position while at the University of Virginia.

Potter was a reserve with the 1981 and 1982 Miami Dolphins. His second season there concluded with their appearance in Super Bowl XVII, where they lost to the Washington Redskins.

Potter then played singles seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

Fans watch a D-10 boys soccer match between Fairview and Girard on Oct. 7, 2020 at Fairview's David Keck Field at Bestwick Stadium. On Aug. 31, 2012, the Fairview School District renamed its athletic complex to honor Bestwick, who died Monday at age 84.
Fans watch a D-10 boys soccer match between Fairview and Girard on Oct. 7, 2020 at Fairview's David Keck Field at Bestwick Stadium. On Aug. 31, 2012, the Fairview School District renamed its athletic complex to honor Bestwick, who died Monday at age 84.

Stadium named in his honor

On Aug. 31, 2012, two decades after Bestwick's last game as Fairview's football coach, school officials held a ceremony to formally add his name to the stadium where he led the Tigers through their glory era.

Since then, many of the Tigers' athletic programs have called David Keck Field at Jack Bestwick Stadium their home turf. A small brick wall, adorned with a plaque that details his football accomplishments, was built near the players' main entrance to the field.

Barchony said he and other players were fortunate to enjoy the success Bestwick helped bring about at Fairview.

“I don't know if we were ever more talented than most of the teams we played against,” Barchony said. “But because we were so well coached by Coach Bestwick, as players, as students and as young men, that's why we were so successful.”

Contact Mike Copper at Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Jack Bestwick, former Fairview High School football coach, dies at 84