Gull Lake leaving Wolverine Conference

Published 6:07 pm Monday, January 17, 2011

The first domino has fallen in conference realignment.

Last Wednesday at the latest Wolverine Conference meeting, Gull Lake athletic director Marc Throop announced the Blue Devils would be leaving the league to become the 16th member of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference (SMAC).

The move was not a surprise to the rest of the Wolverine Conference as Gull Lake, which has become a Class A high school in a Class B league, was placed on probation and put on the clock.

According to the bylaws of the Wolverine Conference, no school can remain a member of  the league if it is Class A for more than one year.

What the league may not have been aware of is the fact that the Blue Devils, who have won the league’s all-sports trophy for the last 27 years, wants to leave the league immediately.

Throop said that Gull Lake would like to begin playing its SMAC schedule next fall with the possible exception of football, since those schedules have already been completed.

It was also announced last Wednesday that the Wolverine Conference would issue invitations to current Lakeland Conference members Edwardsburg, Berrien Springs and Coloma to join the league beginning with the 2012-13 season.

Gull Lake was welcomed with open arms into the SMAC. The league’s athletic directors voted 15-0 to add the Blue Devils to its alignment.

“I feel that it is a good thing for our league,” Niles athletic director John Danaher said. “We have spent the last five years talking about getting someone to replace the departure of Dowagiac. While I don’t see it affecting us a great deal, Gull Lake is a good fit for our league. Things will be a little clearer as we begin talking about alignment and divisions and their effects on the different sports.”

Lakeshore athletic director Greg Younger has a unique prespective about the addition of Gull Lake, since he watched Dowagiac teams compete against the Blue Devils for several years.

He too feels Gull Lake is making a good move.

“It is great for the Big 16 to get back to a full 16 teams,” Younger said. Gull Lake has a very solid program and will fit well in the conference.”

Dowagiac athletic director Scott Lawler confirmed that the Wolverine Conference ADs have spent much of the school year looking at changes to the league.

“The Wolverine Conference will be changing very soon,” he said. “The athletic directors from the conference have been meeting most of the school year going over possible changes within the league and league expansion throughout the region. The only news I can tell people right now is that we will not have Gull Lake in our league in the near future. Maybe as early as next year, but nothing is final.

“Also, the league ADs are meeting this week with different solutions for the loss of Gull Lake and any other necessary changes to the league. I think we will be meeting once a week for quite some time to make sure we do this right and fits all the needs of the member of the conference. We have great leadership with Gary Ellis, the athletic director of Allegan and Paul Hartsig, our very own principal and the president of Board of Governors of conference and we will get this right for our conference and Dowagiac Union High,” he added.