Some friends of mine (yes, I have friends) not long ago speculated about who would finally win first this fall — the Detroit Lions or the Wayland Wildcats.
The ‘Cats, after finishing their season at 0-9 Friday night, had to b0w out of this manufactured competition, but the Lions still have a chance to become the first NFL team to go 0-17. They were the first to go 0-16, in 2008, a record that has been tied since by the Cleveland Browns.
The comparison is not amusing to some, and there exist football fans who have been racking their brains to determine just why these two teams have experienced such hardships on the gridiron for such a long time.
Wayland has the unenviable record of registering just one victory in four seasons since 2009, and even worse, going 0-9 four times since 2012. Some would call this school and team snakebit. Some would even call it cursed.
Just after the Wildcats’ woeful 0-9 campaign in 2019, coach Mike Doupe was fired. The Wayland athletic brass decided then to try to recapture some past glory by hiring back Tim Gibson, who guided the ‘Cats to a memorable season in which they made it all the way to the state semifinals in the post-season playoffs.
Gibson then left to take the head job at Forest Hills Eastern and enjoyed some successes, but eventually he was fired and moved over to be an assistant at Grand Rapids Catholic Central. He became Wayland head coach in 2020 and went 1-6 in a Covid-shortened season before enduring the 0-9 this year.
So, like the Lions, it seems Wayland’s football fortunes have remained poor except for a few brief successes along the way, at least since the early 1960s. That’s when the glory teams with coach John Wild and Phil and Chuck Regan and Don Japinga ruled the gridiron.
But since then, Wayland has won a league championship only once, in 2007. Not even the 2002 semifinals team captured the O-K Gold crown.
Now Wayland has not had a winning season since 2013, and even that was just 6-5. It was followed soon afterward by 0-9.
So when people say Wayland football is snakebit, I prefer to suggest some kind of curse, like the Lions’ now famous Curse of Bobby Layne. You know the drill: Bartle Bee outlined it well on this very rag just a few weeks ago.
When QB Bobby Layne was so outraged by being traded in 1958, he was said to have predicted the Lions will lose for 50 years. They went 0-16 exactly 50 years later.
And just like with Wayland, it doesn’t do any good to blame the coaches, they have a lot of company when rounding up the suspects. Joe Schmidt and Jim Caldwell are the only coaches in the last 50-plus years to fashion a winning record during their tenures. Schmidt resigned after five seasons and Caldwell was fired.
For the Wildcats, Gerald Omness had a 7-2 season in 1973 and a couple of 5-4 campaigns. Gerry Diorio led that one league title and was successful in several seasons, but he had two 0-9 seasons as well.
Gibson probably had the most successful Wayland seasons since the early 1960s, but he’s now 1-16 since his triumphant return.
I am a longtime observer of football and I’ve covered it for a long time, but as Howard Cosell said, “I never played the game.” I admit I don’t have a clue about how to put a stop to the Curse of Bobby Layne, or whatever it is that curses Wayland over the last 50-plus years.
Somebody please stop the bleeding.