Friday, April 18, 2008

Butler Says Ferndale High School Isn't Leaving OAA

For as long as anyone can remember in Oakland County, there's been few communities that represented the county's bedrock better than Ferndale. Its' small but distinctive footprint from Eight Mile to I-696 (formerly known as Ten Mile Road) has been witness to tremendous change, both good and bad and good again in the past 60 years, but the one constant has been Ferndale High School.

Could it be that is about to change? Will the 2008-2009 school year be remembered as the final season Ferndale High competes in Oakland County? Today the Detroit Free Press reported that Ferndale High School is considering leaving the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) for a possible reformation of the defunct Northwest Suburban League, which folded in 1992 in the shadows of the Mega League's inception in 1993.

Ferndale Athletic Director Shaun Butler told me today nothing could be further from the truth.

"While it's true we're always looking for options to serve our student-athletes, we're very happy with the OAA right now and have no plans on leaving," Bulter said.

So how did Ferndale become one of the schools mentioned as possible deserters?

"In today's economic conditions, especially with the cost and time as it relates to travel in educational athletics, everyone's considering options. What really changed for us was Waterford's schools leaving the OAA," Bulter explained. "While I hated to see them go from a competition standpoint, because they were very competitive with us, it means I don't have to travel out to Waterford Kettering on a Tuesday afternoon. Going that far was a hard sell in educational athletics from a resource standpoint."

How long has Ferndale been part of the Oakland County landscape? Consider the school's football team, which regularly opened with Royal Oak High (later Royal Oak Dondero) for nearly 40 years. The Eagles played a huge league game with Royal Oak Kimball (now Royal Oak High) for nearly as long, and how many SMA championships were decided between the Southfield Blue Jays and Ferndale's Eagles? Finally, the school's grudge match with the neighboring Vikings of Hazel Park High is entering a 8th decade, with the Vikings holding a 37-33 margin in 70 games.

The Eagles were part of the old Eastern Michigan League (EML) until 1964 and are charter members of both the Southeastern Michigan Association (1964-1993) and the OAA (1994-present). The Eagles also played an annual home-and-home game with Pontiac High (now Pontiac Central) that alternated between Wisner Stadium and Ferndale's stadium, now called Gus Hanson Field, pictured above.

"A lot of scuttlebutt was discussed when the northern Oakland County schools started coming into the OAA, but rest assured, we're not leaving the OAA," said Butler.

Today the Detroit Free Press reported that the Mega League, a 28-member high school league domiciled in Wayne County, is about to crumble. The paper reported eight schools will leave the Mega and form a new league, tentatively called the Downriver League, in early May, and another six schools seem poised to leave the Mega just as quickly to reform the Northwest Suburban League.

The charter Northwest Suburban League existed from 1963-1984 and included Oakland County schools Birmingham Groves, North Farmington High and Oak Park High. It also housed the first Class A football champion, 1975's Livonia Franklin Patriots. After a dormant 1985, the NSL reformed in 1986 until it folded in the shadows of the Mega.

The eight schools rumored to form the yet-to-confirmed Downriver League? Allen Park, Southgate, Woodhaven, Trenton, Gibraltar Carlson, Wyandotte and Taylor rivals Truman and Kennedy. The six schools contemplating leaving for the reformed NSL are Garden City, Dearborn Edsel Ford and competing rivals Crestwood and Annapolis from Dearborn Heights and Redford's Thurston and Union high schools.

That doesn't seem to include Ferndale. While not toney like the Bloomfields and Birmingham, Ferndale is distinct and unique without glitzy clubs and posh restaurants. It's got a little bit of grit and some strong flair of it's own. It's an Oakland County renaissance story. On the preps scene, Ferndale is still a long-standing competitor in many sports. Their football, basketball and baseball tradition remains strong and the school annually hosts one of the more well-attended boys' basketball quarterfinals.

Thankfully, we're not talking about another Michigan institution pulling up stakes. Ferndale's Eagles are staying put right where they belong.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit’s High School Football Rivalries, due August 25, 2008 from Arcadia Publishing.

(Photo of Gus Hanson courtesy of The Daily Tribune, Royal Oak, Michigan)

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home