DETROIT — When Walt Bazylewicz began a 15-year stretch as Catholic High School League director in 1973, a decision voters made three years earlier imposed a devastating burden throughout the archdiocese.

By a margin of 338,000 votes, Michigan voters in November 1970 approved Proposal C — the controversial “parochiaid” amendment — to the Michigan Constitution banning even indirect state aid to private schools.

Bazylewicz, a highly successful football coach for more than three decades, tackled the challenge of raising the money to pay for the league’s programs.

He knew of Julian Joseph, a parishioner at St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park, and a member and officer of the Knights of Columbus on local, state and international boards.

Their discussions evolved into a sponsorship agreement between the CHSL and the Knights that is thriving to this day, a span of 48 years.

The Knights’ financial support has established a foundation for the Prep Bowl, a daylong extravaganza celebrating excellence in athletics and academics along with a healthy dose of football on both the CYO and high school levels.

Since the league’s founding in 1926, its title games were played at any number of locations, then from 1979 to 2002 at the Pontiac Silverdome, and since 2003 at Ford Field.

In addition, the Knights also committed to supporting the volleyball championships and the boys and girls track and field finals.

Comments made at the 2017 Prep Bowl by then-K of C State Deputy Ken Unterbrink are as meaningful today as then: “We are in full support of Catholic schools and Catholic athletes. We help them in any way we can to make them successes in the world. Please know that the K of C is with you.”

The Knights’ support of the CHSL is just one facet of the organization’s mission of contributing to the welfare of the parishes and communities where members and their families live, pray and work, helping them put their faith into action through the promotion of the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

Vic Michaels, CHSL director since 2003, says, “Without the tremendous support of the K of C, it would be very difficult for the Catholic League to continue.”

That is a sentiment he espouses for each of the league’s six other corporate sponsors.

Michaels administers a $490,000 operating budget accommodating all aspects of competition for 27 high schools in southeastern Michigan competing in 16 girls sports and 14 boys sports, including scheduling, rules, officials, playoffs, trophies and awards, and records management.

Sponsors’ funds, for example, help keep “at a minimum” fees each school pays for its teams: $90 for each varsity team in each sport, $60 for each junior varsity and freshmen squad in each sport.

“It’s a big savings for them,” Michaels says.

The league also realizes income from ticket sales, advertising in championship playoff programs and a variety of fundraising events, as well as a subsidy from the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“I believe strongly in Catholic education,” says John Wangler, about why his company, Top Cat, is a CHSL sponsor. Top Cat is the No. 1 Adidas dealer in the Midwest serving youth sports, high schools, colleges and corporations.

Wangler’s name is familiar in CHSL athletics history. He starred in football and basketball at Royal Oak Shrine (1977), and was the quarterback for Michigan’s 1980 Big Ten champions and 1981 Rose Bowl victors against Washington.

His six children all attended Catholic high schools: three at Shrine, two at Warren De La Salle and one at Farmington Hills Mercy.

“A Catholic education meant a lot to me and to the kids,” he says.

Alliance Catholic Credit Union, through its 14 branches in the six counties of southeastern Michigan, realizes its mission of service to the Catholic community through support of education and financial literacy. It has taken its educational programs to the classrooms in not just high schools, but to all Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese.

Alliance has created a program awarding $20,000 in scholarships to deserving students who want to pursue a Catholic high school education.

Aquinas College in Grand Rapids — a liberal arts college in the Catholic and Dominican tradition preparing individuals for careers of leadership and service — is the newest corporate sponsor. “We look upon the partnership,” President Dr. Kevin Quinn says, “as an opportunity to expand our presence in the Catholic higher education community in Michigan.”

Dr. Quinn invited CHSL teams that might be playing in the Grand Rapids area to “use our facilities to warm up, to hang out” — as Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s lacrosse team did recently.

Buddy’s Pizza, associated with the Catholic League since 1994, has been serving up “The Original Detroit-Style Pizza” since opening its doors on the corner of Six Mile and Conant in 1946. Now with multiple locations throughout Metro Detroit, Buddy's continues to serve Detroit's No. 1 square pizza, made from scratch soups, and celebrated antipasto salad.

As an official sponsor of the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Catholic Youth Organization and the Catholic League, Buddy’s offers a special discount for teams, clubs, group gatherings, meetings, etc. Log on to chsl.com/the-chsl/sponsors/.

E. A. Graphics has been serving the Catholic community with screen-printed and embroidered sportswear since 1974. It is the official championship apparel supplier for the Catholic League.

President Robert Artymovich says, “We’re happy to be part of the Catholic League. My family grew up in Catholic schools. I went to (Harper Woods) Notre Dame, my wife to Dominican, my kids to De La Salle and Regina.”

Wilson is the longtime official ball supplier of the Catholic League championships in girls and boys basketball and soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball. Each year Wilson provides each of the league’s baseball and softball teams a half-dozen balls as well as one basketball, volleyball and soccer ball for each of the varsity teams.

“Our sponsors,” Michaels says, “have a tremendous impact in helping with the development of our student-athletes while helping our schools maintain minimal costs.

“We appreciate the support of our sponsors.”


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