Twelfth Man


I was thinking about the next column, then Justin opened the door for me with his last column.\

It’s no secret that I personally don’t like the Big Ten Conference in its present form. I don’t believe Grafton High belongs there in any sport.

A brief history lesson: In the 60’s, 70’s and up to 1982, GHS was classified as a AAA school. Not by the SSAC, but by its own school administration who decided to play up a class.

Grafton High never had 300 boys in the upper 4 grades, in fact my research turned up that in the 60’s, there were years that GHS may have been the largest single A school in the state. Meaning that they had less than 200 boys in the upper 3 grades.

So why did we stay in AAA, and why did we play all the Big Ten schools, with the exception of Victory High School in every sport?

When I posed those questions to people in the 70’, I was told, “The high school would get kicked out of the Big Ten and the school always played at the big school classification.”

Good answers, well in the 50’s, GHS you won 3 Big Ten titles, 1 in the 60’ and 1 in the 70’s. Play, yes, compete, no. If my math is correct, in 32 years GHS won 2% of all Big Ten Championships awarded during that time period.

What I didn’t understand was, it didn’t faze anyone in the school administration that we had become the doormat in the Big Ten. That during the 60’s the football program won at 33% in the 70’s it improved to 35%. The basketball program faired a little better, they won at 44% during that time frame.

In 1978 under pressure to win Head Football Coach Don Swisher quit and took a job at Buckhannon Upshur. He did what he couldn’t do at Grafton. He won, and was eventually named North Central Athletic Conference Football Coach of the Year.

The Board of Education hired a young Mike Skinner to replace him. My first conversation with Coach Skinner didn’t go well. He told me that his football program would compete in AAA and the Big Ten. I told him not to plan on staying here very long. Today, we joke about it.

But 5 years later a record of 17-33 and 3, 2-8 season in a row, GHS finally oved to class AA and stopped playing the larger schools in the Big Ten. The School Administration listened to wisdom.

Finally, after 22 years of losing in the Big Ten, the Athletic program at GHS came into their own. Losers became winners almost overnight.

In 1985 the Big Schools of the Big Ten formed their own conference, the North Central Athletic Conference, and left the Big Ten, leaving the Big Ten with Bridgeport, Liberty, Lincoln, WI, Byrd, Philip Barbour, Grafton, and South Harrison was asked to join.

For years it was a good little conference, the Grafton High School competed for championship in all sports. Then in 2009 the NCAC folded, the former Big Ten Schools got tired of being dominated by Morgantown and University High. They requested re-admittance into the Big Ten. South Harrison pulled out and all of a sudden, it was back to the 60’s and 70’s again for GHS.

I’m not talking about one or two sports. Grafton High School has won just 2 Big Ten Championships since the new formation of the conference in 2010. That translates to 1% of all championships awarded in all sports in the last 11 years. I’m talking about team championships. Even the 2011 State Champion Girls Soccer Team didn’t win a Big Ten Championship,

If you take all the sports programs in the Big Ten at the end of the school year, you will find that GHS consistently ranks in the bottom 3rd of the Big Ten, athletic wise.

Now, I’m not faulting anyone, not the student athletes or their coaches. It’s just the way it is when your school tries to compete in a conference when you are one of the smallest schools. Again, I’m not talking about one sport or one season.

Nor do I fault parents who transfer their child or children to another area school. Those students who have left have done well athletically at their new school.

Justin, for your information, the glory years of Bearcat Football happened between 1983-1999. 14 winning seasons, 11 playoff appearances (would have been 14 out of 14 under the current format), 21 playoff games, 11 playoff wins, 1 State Championship, 1 Runner Up, 2 semifinal appearances, and a winning percentage of 72%.

Compare that to 2000’s 8 winning seasons, 6 layoff appearances, 12 playoff games, 7 playoff wins, a state championship, a semifinal appearance, and a winning percentage of 44%.

However, 5 of those 8 winning seasons, 11 of the 12 playoff games, all 7 playoff wins and a winning percent of 53% happened before the Big Ten returned to its present form.

I dare say there is a correlation.

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