Oliver Ames High School in Easton, Mass., has enjoyed much success in the Hockomock League since 1936. So much, in fact, that it ran out of space on the gymnasium walls to accommodate individual league championship banners. But a solution — to replace those banners with a single one for each sport that lists championships by year — has created a new problem.
With each banner in the traditional system taking up 24 square feet, most Hockomock League banners had to be stored in the Oliver Ames basement, according to a report in The Enterprise of Brockton. Athletic director Bill Matthews came up with the idea of consolidated banners, which not only would conserve wall space, but also honor dozens of teams whose respective booster groups never placed banner orders in the first place.
Moreover, an auction to sell off the soon-to-be outmoded individual championship banners would provide a second life for the artifacts while raising money toward a new synthetic turf field for the school. But when a flyer announcing the 10-day online auction went public, criticism quickly surfaced in Facebook comments and Matthews' email inbox. A change.org petition titled "Don't sell History: Save OA's Banners" has received more than 300 signatures, and continues to draw signees despite the fact Matthews has cancelled the auction.
"People expressed that they just didn't feel that was an appropriate way to deal with the banners," he said, adding that people "felt it was part of their team history and that history needed to stay here at the school."
For now, the old banners will return to storage as new ones arrive this year. Meanwhile, Matthews expects a dialog to continue.
"We in no way meant to slight any championship team or any member of a championship team," he told the The Enterprise. "I can understand why people might have gotten concerned or upset. Perhaps they didn't know that the overall strategy was to honor everybody instead of just those who happened to have a banner made."