Around the SMAC - Preseason Edition

2015 Season

SMAC Update - July 28, 2015

Coach "U" resumes coaching career at Benton Harbor

Former St. Joe coach Elliot Uzelac's brief retirement is over as he accepted the position as head coach at Benton Harbor last week. Uzelac went 45-13 with St. Joe frorm 2006-2010. Uzelac signed a four year deal to help turn the Benton Harbor football program around, Uzelac is foregoing a salary for this season instead turning it over to his assistant coaches, including former Michigan Wolverine Jerry Diorio, and former St. Joe staffer Lyle Hayden, as well as former players Matt Mattox and Devonte' Jones. The Tigers will open the season at Gull Lake, where Uzelac won his first playoff game with St. Joe in 2006, when St. Joe won 14-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Uzelac will return to St. Joe as an opponent on October 2nd on the same night we commemerate the 100th season of St. Joe football.

Final season in the SMAC for Benton Harbor

The 2015-2016 school year marks the final season of Benton Harbor in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference (SMAC). A week before the hiring of Uzelac, the Benton Harbor Board of Education voted unanimously to leave the conference. New Athletic Director Fred Smith did not indicate which, if any, conference the Tigers might join. The two most likely choices, would be either the Wolverine Conference or the two year old BCS Conference. Benton Harbor will play this last season in the league. The SMAC will be down to 11 teams after Benton Harbor leaves.

Is Niles the next to go??

In an aritcle in the Niles Daily Star (Conference realignment on the horizon?, 7/27/15), author Scott Nowak reported that there are some that wish Niles would also exit the SMAC and join Benton Harbor and head to the Wolverine Conference. Citing a desire to resume the 100 year old rivalry football game with Dowagiac as the primary reason.

New Stadium for Portage Central.... and Northern???

At a recent Board of Eduction meeting for the Portage Public Schools, the board was presented with some options about some work to be done in the school system. The superitendent presented 5 different options, mostly dealing with work to be done at the middle schools or creating new middle schools. In all five of the options the question of new stadiums for each of the Portage High Schools were raised. Portage Northern and Portage Central play football at Portage Central's aging McCamley field which has some structural issues that need to be addressed going forward. The board spent over $75,000 in repairs to McCamley in the 2014 school year, but an unconfirmed report says that the building inspector in Portage has threatened to close the stadium if repairs aren't done.

These questions are what the board is considering to send to Portage voters for approval. In the options the stadium issue was separate from the school work in 4 of the 5 options. One of the following five Options will be sent to Portage Voters in the November elections.

1. A. Two New Middle Schools, work at West Middle, two pools, busses and technology and two new stadiums.
2. A. Two New Middle Schools, work at West Middle, two pools, busses and technology B. Two new stadiums.
3. A. Two New Middle Schools, work at West Middle, busses and technology B. two pools and two new stadiums.
4. A. Two New Middle Schools, work at West Middle, two pools, busses and technology B. Central Stadium. C. Northern Stadium
5. A. Two New Middle Schools, repurpose West Middle, two pools, busses and technology B. two new stadiums.

Former Gull Lake AD Cleared of Embezzlement Charges

Marc Throop was fired in February after Gull Lake found some financial irregularities in the athletic department. An investigation by the Kalamazoo County Sherriff's department was conducted into Throop. The County Prosecutor decided there was not enough evidence that a crime was committed and charges will not be filed. Throop was set to retire at the end of the 2014-15 school year anyways. He's served at Gull Lake's Athletic Director for more than 20 years.

SMAC Update - May 23, 2015

Changing classes

The 2015-16 MHSAA Enrollemnt figures have been released and it shows only one school will be changing classes. Lakeshore's one year run in Class A is over and the Lancers will be back in the second tier of Michigan high schools in terms of student enrollment. Kalamazoo Central replaces Loy Norrix as the largest school in the SMAC with Benton Harbor the smallest. Portage Norther overtakes rival Portage Central in enrollment for the first time in history of the two schools.

School Students Class
1,639 A
1,580 A
1,375 A
1,351 A
1,344 A
1,175 A
1,115 A
1,050 A
980 A
908 A
874 B
631 B

New Stadium, New Look for Norrix Logo

One of the oldest stadiums in the league is getting a facelift, but really a rebuild. The crumbling concrete stands and breaking benches at Griffith Stadium at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix are now gone, making way for some brand new bleachers and a new concession stand, restroom, and ticket booth building. Plus the new Norrix stadium comes with an updated and more fierce looking Knight logo for the school. Southern Bleacher Co. of Graham Texas, will do the work on the stadium, at a cost of $477,645. The new stands are expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season.

...still waiting on Benton Harbor

We've been all awaiting word about what was the "Big Surprise" at Benton Harbor in terms of their football program. Several reports and our own sources have revealed that former St. Joe coach Elliot Uzelac was going to become Benton Harbor's next head coach, but the move came with a few conditions, including a switch of leagues to the BCS Conference. However that move was put on hold after the school board voted to suspend the superintendent pending an internal investation that may be related to the coaching and conference choice.

Mattawan coach resigns, Brown named coach.

A civil rights complaint, a history of inappropriate and sexist comments proved too much for Mattawan head coach Matt Stephens to be able to overcome. Stephens stepped down as Mattawan's head coach after five seasons. Stephens compiled a 31-19 record with the Wildcats, leading them to three playoff appearances, a district title and a school record 10 win season. But some racist, sexist, and other inappropriate comments came to light during the 2014 season which prompted a civil right's complaint (LINK). Ryan Brown, who was Mattawan's defensive coordinator under Stephens has been named as the new head coach.

SMAC Update - April 26, 2015


This year marks a special milestone in the history of the St. Joseph football program. The 2015 season is the 100th season in St. Joe football history. Not the 100th year, The program is actually older, but because some seasons were not held in the 1910's and 20's because of world events, this year marks the 100th season in the Bears program history.

We are looking for your help to celebrate the history of the program. We're looking for photos, articles, clippings, anything that marks the history of the football program.

If you have anything you'd be willing to share with us, please contact the football boosters at

Plus during the game against Benton Harbor on October 2nd. We will be holding a special 100th season special.

We hope to see you at the game and we hope you have some history to share with us!!!

...Bergan out Porter in at Loy Norrix

Kalamazoo Loy Norrix will be under the direction of a new coach for the first time in seven years. Sean Bergan stepped down back in December. No official reason was given but Norrix AD Andwe Laboe told the Kalamazoo Gazette that he was sad to see Bergan go. The Bergan name does have some history in the area. Sean's brother Bill served as coach at Berrien Springs and his father Paul was once the head coach at Benton Harbor. Bergan compliled a record of 14-49 in his seven years as coach.

Taking over for Bergan will be current Parma Western Athletic Director (yes AD not coach) Jason Porter. Porter will finish the school year at Parma before coming over to Norrix. Porter is a native of Kalamazoo, he's a 1994 graduate of Kalamazoo Hackett. He's actually a resident of Vicksburg but has been communiting to Parma during his five years on staff.

Porter was a softball coach at Comstock and Kalamazoo Central. He has three years of head football coaching experience at LaVille and Prairie Heights, both in Indiana.

...still awaiting word at Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor has been without an official head coach since Darric Randolph had to step down prior to the 2014 season. Assistant Coaches Randy Jones and Mike Gillespie ran the Tigers program last year as Co-Interim Coaches. Benton Harbor finished 0-9 for a second straight season last year.

However we've found out that a "surpise" may be in store for the Tiger football program. Athletic Director Willie Wilson says they have their man, but a few details still need to be worked out. One of which includes work on a weight room facilty for the Tigers.

The "Big Reveal" is expected soon.

...Gull Lake AD fired for stealing funds

An article in the Kalamazoo Gazette shows that Gull Lake Athletic Director Marc Throop was fired back in February for taking athletic department funds. Gull Lake made the decision after financial irregularities were discovered in the athletic department finances.

Throop was let go after 20 years as Athletic Director and just three months short of his retirement. Documents show that Throop admitted to taking money from the gate cash box several times, including $200 from a basketball game on February 24th which he also admits to doing several times in the past.

The school hired a auditor to review the finances and were turning their findings over to law enforcement for any pending situations.

Gull Lake volleyball coach and Events Coordinator Karyn Furlong is serving as the interim AD until a decision is made on the position during the summer.

2014 Season

SMAC Update - August 9, 2014

...The Future's so bright, I've gotta wear shades.

Thanks in part to supermodel Kate Upton, Niles high school will be making some changes to the 1950's era football stadium to make watching the game a tad more easy. The lights at Viking Field in Niles are getting replaced. The original light fixtures put in during the 1950's are getting replaced, with the stadium losing four of the eight poles for the exisiting lights. Most importantly,the two light poles at the 40 yard lines on each side are being removed, leaving the field of view unobstructed from the stands. Kate Upton is the daughter of Niles athletic director Jeff Upton. She asked her father how she could help the athletic department, Upton along with Coca-Cola, and a grant from the Fredrick S. Upton Foundation provided the nearly $50,000 needed for the upgrades. The new lighting system will save on electricity, they will also be considerably brighter than the current incandescent bulbs. The light's will be delivered and installed will begin on Wednesday, August 13. St. Joseph will be able to see the new lights in action on October 10th when the Bears varsity visits Niles.

...Financial problems for BHAS; Last minute coaching change for Tigers

Times have been tough for the Benton Harbor school district for several years now. Declining enrollment, resulting in loss of state funding has added up to the Benton Harbor school district operating in a deficit since the end of the 2007 school year. The deficit has grown to $15 Million at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Recently a state appointed financial review team looked into the financial situation and determined that the district is in financial distress. The team has sent their findings to Michigan governor Rick Snyder, who is expected to announce that the school district is in a financial emergency, which would prompt state intervention. The district would have four options to try to get out of the deficit. Emergency Manager, Consent Agreement, Bankruptcy, or Neutral Evaluation Process. The school has stated that they will enter into the consent agreement.

That's all for the Tigers news off the field but there is a last minute and unfortate change for the Tigers Head Coaching position. Head Coach Darric Randolph will not be able to continue his turnaround plan for the Tigers. Randolph works outside of the school district and up until now, his schedule at work has allowed him to coach the Tiger football team. Changes in his schedule have put his coaching and job schedule into direct conflict and he can no longer serve as the Tigers head coach. The Tigers will go into the 2014 season with Co-Head Coaches as assistants Mike Gillespie and Randy Jones will direct the Tigers this season. Benton Harbor opens the season at home with Gull Lake. St. Joe will travel the short distance to Filstup Field again this season on October 3rd.

Around the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference - Offseason Edition

2014-15 Offseason Updates

SMAC Update - March 25, 2014

Gull Lake names new coach

The last coaching vacancy in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conferenc has been filled as Gull Lake has hired Tim VanWormer as their new head coach. VanWormer, 41, spent the last season at his high school Alma Mater Houghton Lake, going 1-8 last season. Previous to that VanWormer spent four years as head coach at Frankenmuth High School, where he went 24-15, going 10-1 in his final season at Frankenmuth in 2012. VanWormer takes over from Tim Hiller who resigned after three seasons, going 8-19. VanWormer's home debut will be against St. Joseph in Week 2.

Changing classes

The MHSAA enrollment figures were recently and one SMAC school will be changing their classification, that's our neighbors south on Cleveland Avenue, Lakeshore. Lakeshore's enrollment actually dropped from 892 to 887, even so, the cutoff for Class A is 882 and above. St. Joe is still Class A, increasing from 986 to 1,028. The largest SMAC school is Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, who boast an enrollment of 1,612, 70 students more than rival Kalamazoo Central. The two smallest schools in the league are from Berrien County with Niles at 885 (Class A) and Benton Harbor at 634 (Class B).

School Students Class
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 1,612 A
Kalamazoo Central 1,542 A
Portage Central 1,384 A
Portage Northern 1,345 A
Battle Creek Lakeview 1,278 A
Mattawan 1,184 A
Battle Creek Central 1,124 A
Gull Lake 1,064 A
St. Joseph 1,028 A
Lakeshore 887 A
Niles 885 A
Benton Harbor 634 B

SMAC Update - March 14, 2014

...And then there were twelve.

The Big 16 is no more. In fact there's no more "Big" anything about this conference anymore. The conference has officially been known as the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference, but has gone by the unofficial moniker "Big 16". Now with Battle Creek Harper Creek, Coldwater, Marshall and Sturgis leaving for other leagues, the remaining 12 schools are just going by the name "SMAC."

New coaches around the league

Two SMAC schools are undergoing changes at the top of their programs this offseason, most notably just to the south of us as Denny Dock announced his retirement at Lakeshore, our former assistant Bryan Keim has been given the nod as the Lancers new head coach. The other coaching change has not been resolved yet. Gull Lake head coach and former WMU quarterback Tim Hiller stepped down in his role with the Blue Devils. Gull Lake has not named a new head coach yet. St. Joe will be the second game for the new Blue Devils coach and first home game. St. Joe makes a return visit to Gull Lake for the first time since 2006.