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Rowley: 'I believe I was destined to coach here'

Oxford Football Coach Bud Rowley talks to his triumphant team after they trounced Lake Orion 41-20 last week. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 31, 2011 - Varsity Football Coach Bud Rowley never doubts his role here in Oxford.

"I believe I was destined to coach here," Rowley said.

For nearly four decades, Rowley, along with his passion, enthusiasm, and love for high school football, has been a fixture on the sidelines during Friday nights in the fall, thus earning him a well deserved place as a "Charter Member" of the Oxford High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

"I'm very fortunate, very honored to be nominated and still be active in my career of coaching," Rowley said.

Growing up in Adrian, Rowley excelled athletically for the Maples before attending Northern Michigan University in 1968. During his four year career, Rowley would earn three varsity letters and lead the Wildcats in return yardage as a junior before graduating in 1972 with a degree in Education.

Following his education, Rowley would play semiprofessional in the Flint area before beginning his teaching and coaching career in Oxford in 1973. He spent three years as an assistant football coach before taking over the head coach position in 1976.

However, success didn't come right away, as the struggling Wildcat program only won 11 games over the next four seasons.

After being replaced by Mike Buck, Rowley left and coached football and wrestling for two years at Madison Heights Bishop Foley before returning to Oxford in 1982.

Upon his return, the Wildcats would become one of the most consistent programs in the state as they rattled off 28 consecutive winning seasons - fourth most in state history.

"People talk about living the dream, I am," he said. "I taught for 36 years and it was a phenomenal being with kids everyday. It was never work."

"I am truthfully truly living the dream because I am doing what I love . . . whether I spend two hours a day at it or 18 hours a day," Rowley noted.

"It's a great community, a great school system and great kids. I work with great coaches, great colleagues when I taught and it's been nothing but phenomenal, awesome, rewarding, exciting and fun to be in Oxford," he added.

In 1984 the Wildcats would call the Flint Metro League home. Over the course of the next 25 years, Oxford would become the league's premier football program under Rowley. The Wildcats captured 10 FML titles and would win 80 percent of their leagues games.

Rowley remains the FML's all-time winningest coach. He added transitioning to the FML wasn't any more difficult than last season's transition from the FML to the Oakland Activities Association.

"You (have) just got to get to know everybody; You (have) got to see what they do, you (have) got to see how they think, how their players react, how their town is, how the game feel is," he said. "You (have) just got to be there for a year."

In addition to 15 appearances in the Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs, Rowley has led the Wildcats to four MHSAA regional titles and one MHSAA district championship.

However, the most successful period for Rowley was from 1989 to 1993. During that five year span, Oxford would win 55 games and advance to the Class BB finals three times. They would come from behind in 1992 to defeat Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 20-13 to win the state title.

"We were on a roll. We were in the finals in 1990 (and) came up short. We had another good season in '91 and just everybody looked back on the '90 loss in the (Pontiac) Silverdome and (said) 'we could fix that, we can get that and if we get the opportunity again, we are not going to let it get away', and they didn't," Rowley said.

"They came from behind, won it in overtime, made a goal line stand for a two point conversion, it was awesome," he added. "It was great. They just made their minds up to play."

He added it was "awesome" to have three teams make it to the state championship game in four years. "It was very exciting, very rewarding and it says a lot about Oxford football, Oxford kids and the community," he said.

Rowley's program has produced dozens of collegiate football players, including his son Kyle, who is now a part of Rowley's coaching staff.

Rowley said it was "awesome" to have his son coach with him. "I saw him born; I got to see him grow up; got to see him play flag football, seventh, eighth and ninth grade football, then he played varsity with me; then I got to sit in the stands and watch him play college football at Michigan State for two years and Saginaw Valley for three, and now he is next to me on the sidelines coaching. It's awesome," Rowley said.

"There ain't nothing better than hanging around your family, teaching and coaching football. Nothing better," he added.

In addition to his son, the program has produced two National Football League professionals, Eric Ghiaciuc (2000) and Dave Rayner (2001).

Rowley entered the 2011 season with a career coaching record of 221-107-1, a .672 win percentage, which was good enough for 32nd among all gridiron coaches in Michigan history.

He retired from teaching in 2010 following a 36 year career as an industrial arts, physical education and health instructor. He currently resides in Oxford.

Wearing his signature yellow pants, Rowley continues to pace the sidelines every Friday night in the fall and remains a leader of young men - in much the same manner he has for thousands of former Oxford student-athletes.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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