Messenger photo by Dianne Garrett
Whitehall Yearling High School Athletic Director Mike Ferguson has been named Athletic Director of the Year by the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. The 1974 Whitehall Yearling High School graduate has been the director since 2002.
Coming home to Whitehall to accept the position of athletic director six years ago was meant to be for Mike Ferguson, who is passionate about working with kids.
For his efforts, Ferguson has been named the athletic director of the year by the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
Ferguson said that he was surprised and honored by the recognition.
There are six districts in Ohio with six executive boards who make the nominations to the state’s executive board.
Ferguson took the Whitehall job when former director Harvey Eader retired.
"The good things we have accomplished here are because of the good people who work here," said Ferguson.
Two staff members stayed, and Eader made sure that when he left, the next person could step into the job with an easy transition, right down to assuring money in the budget.
Ferguson graduated from Whitehall Yearling High School in 1974, received his bachelor’s degree in education in 1979 from Ohio State University, and his master’s degree in athletic administration from Ashland University in 2000.
While attending WYHS he played four years of football, one year of basketball and participated for two seasons in track.
He always knew he wanted to be a teacher and coach. One of his inspirations was coach Dick Kane at Rosemore Middle School. Kane coached all three sports there, and Ferguson participated in all of them. When he did his freshman student observation, he chose Kane.
Ferguson’s first teaching job was at Sixpence School in the old East Main Street Elementary School. It was a private school for special needs children. The school split, and after almost two years, he went to work for the City of Columbus in the treasurer’s office for 12 years and then at the Board of Health for seven.
During that time, he taught General Equivalency Diploma classes in Gahanna, where he resides, but he knew he wanted to be a coach. He landed a job coaching at St. Charles Preparatory School for five years, continuing on to Licking Heights as the athletic director for one year.
Ferguson and Eader had become good friends over the years, and when Eader decided to retire, he encouraged Ferguson to apply for his director’s position at Whitehall.
"I feel like I owe Harvey a lot. I loved Licking Heights, but it wasn’t home," shared Ferguson.
He recalls one of the highlights at his alma mater was when they named the gym after Coach Russ Gregg. He called it an amazing night seeing former players coming in from all over the country, including California, to be there for the event to show their love for a former coach.
He’s proud of all the kids, and said it is hard to name one or two, but he did refer to Matt Angle, who went on to play for OSU, and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. The former student did his internship with Ferguson.
"We have some amazing kids who do great things," he said.
The school has an athletic council, which is community service-oriented. They have collected pop tops for Ronald McDonald House, and visited there, as well as participating in alley clean-ups and other projects.
"I want the community to know how giving the kids of Whitehall are," Ferguson commented.
He’s noticing that more students are participating in sports and other school activities these days. "I feel blessed knowing these kids," said Ferguson.
On Saturday, July 12, former Whitehall student Dominek Hixon, who played in the Super Bowl for the New York Giants, will conduct The Next Level Football Camp, along with best high school buddy, Anthony Jordan. Jordan also played high school football with Hixon.
Ferguson pointed out that in a district where there is so much diversity, it just doesn’t matter where they come from. "The kids all work together."