Dan Ford’s brain is a treasure chest of high school football knowledge.
Name a statistical record, and Ford will have an answer within 24 hours because few people in the country research high school football as extensively as he does.
As the Bayfield High School football team prepares to chase its third state championship in school history this week, nobody will be able to put the game in perspective the same way as Ford, the man known as the “Voice of the Wolverines.”
“Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve done a history of sports programs,” said Ford. “I’ve loved doing that here. I will brag that I have details and info on every football game Bayfield has ever played, and this is my 30th year following it.”
Ford, 69, has published books about the history of football in several states, including Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico. Last summer, he released his first book on La Plata County teams titled Bayfield Wolverine Football: A history of high school football in La Plata County, Colorado. Though the book mostly focuses on the history of Bayfield, it also dives into the history of Durango, Ignacio and Montezuma-Cortez football teams.
One season after publishing the book, this year’s Wolverines (12-0) have gone about breaking nearly every record Ford compiled. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Bayfield will host La Junta (11-1) for the Class 2A state championship game with a chance to add its own chapter to the Wolverine legacy that Ford has meticulously recorded.
“It’s great having a guy that has been in the community way back to when our dads were playing football,” said Bayfield senior Dax Snooks, who has put his name on that next chapter with records for receiving touchdowns and single-game interceptions this season. His four interceptions in the opening round of the playoffs against Elizabeth broke none other than Ben Ford’s previous record of three. Ben Ford is Dan Ford’s youngest son, who was a member of Bayfield’s 1996 state championship team.
“For him to keep up on our stats and travel to our games means a lot to the team,” Snooks said.
‘Understand your past’Ford grew up in Aztec. He graduated in 1966 and went to the New Mexico Military Institute to play junior college football. He felt he could not keep up with the bigger players from west Texas and he gave up football to attend Baylor University for one year before finishing school at Fort Lewis College.
His love for researching high school football started in 1977. One day, during his 44-year banking career in Albuquerque, he learned an old coach was retiring and somebody asked Ford what the coach’s all-time record was. Nobody knew, so Ford went to work. He pulled microfilm of old newspapers from the University of New Mexico library to find the answer.
“I fell in love with being able to research,” Ford said. “I expanded it from there and began writing books on the history of New Mexico football. I like to think I’m the leading authority on that, for what it’s worth.”
Microfilm has been his go-to source for information ever since.
“Newspapers are so important. Pictures, articles, interviews, it’s all the small-town newspapers. It’s a treasure, but many of the small newspapers don’t exist anymore. I’m glad we have the internet, libraries and museums that hang onto that kind of info. You have to understand your past to get a good bearing on your future.”
Ford settled in Bayfield in 1988 with his wife, Cyndee, two sons, Ben and Ross, and his daughter, Christine. They had spent 7½ years in Alaska, and the Fords wanted their sons to live somewhere they could play more competitive football. Ross was a sophomore on the team that year. Ford was amazed to see no cheerleaders or fans at a game against Durango’s junior varsity. He said fewer than 100 people were milling around the field. Someone asked him to run the scoreboard, and he gladly volunteered. He found a microphone in the booth and decided to also act as game announcer. It began his 17 years of game announcing. He laughingly worked to get the community to refer to him as the “Voice of the Wolverines.”
Eventually, they did.
“They haven’t been able to shut me up since,” he said.
Ford’s parents, Jane and Joe, also live in Bayfield and are in their early 90s.
Ben Ford and Kevin Prior became quick friends when the Fords moved to Bayfield. The two were captains on the 1996 state championship team, along with Marshall Hahn and John Lancett under head coach Jon Keirns. Prior, son of legendary Bayfield coach Butch Prior and father of current Bayfield junior star Keyon Prior, fondly remembers meeting Ford.
“Dan immediately got into the history of Bayfield, researching everything,” Prior said. “He would always corner us and talk to us about it, and would tell us what he had learned. He was so willing to share what he learned and so excited about the history of sports, and not just here.
“We would go on a trip for sports, and he’d always have us stop at some famous field or stadium and tell us about something big that had happened in high school sports on the field. When we were around, that’s all he would talk about, the history of what had happened. It’s awesome to have someone who cares so much so that the tradition becomes that much more special to the community.”
Ford made an impression on his successors in the booth, too. Jeff Misener, a math teacher at BHS, has held the duty of PA announcing since 2011 and helps provide a fun atmosphere at Wolverine Country Stadium.
Misener began coaching in Bayfield in 1989. He remembers Ford calling everything from middle school to high school games.
“He was really cool because he never took the job too seriously,” Misener said. “He wasn’t opposed to telling a joke or two and making light of things. Whether he was talking about the chain gangs on a football sideline or pretending to auction off junker cars in the parking lot.”
Misener said Ford’s deep knowledge inspired him to do his own research before every game because he wanted to live up to Ford’s standard.
“He knows and can tell you the history of just about every sport we’ve had going,” Misener said. “When I started here, I started keeping track of middle school records, and I did that because I had been talking to Dan and he had all these records. I told myself I had to start keeping track of it all for middle school. I realized how nice that is for the kids to come up here. You need to have someone to keep track of it all and be a repository of that legacy.”
‘Bedrock of this community’Ford gave up announcing Bayfield games to do color commentary for Aztec football games in the late 2000s. But, at the start of this season, he gave up his radio duties because he wanted to follow a Bayfield football season he expected to be special. The Wolverines haven’t disappointed.
When Bayfield hosts this week’s state title game, Misener will ask Ford to return to his seat behind the microphone to announce the game. After all, Ford designed the press box at Wolverine Country Stadium, which opened in 2000, and his fingerprint is on every detail of the press box.
“Dan once brought a coffee can to put the microphone on, and people tell me all the time to get rid of it,” Misener said. “But that’s Dan Ford’s coffee can. It helps remind me, this is Dan Ford’s shoes we’re trying to fill. It would thrill me to no end to have Dan Ford announce that game. He deserves to announce a state championship game. He is the ‘Voice of the Wolverines.’ He’s one of the people that are the bedrock of this community.”
Ford’s knowledge has also been invaluable in New Mexico communities. He keeps close tabs on the teams in San Juan County no matter where he lives.
“He always brings a lot of great stories to the radio that people don’t know about,” said Walter Dorman, a longtime radio broadcaster and referee in the Farmington area. “I get stories from Dan that I have never heard, even after being around him for 15, 20 years. With Dan, you learn something new every week. I go through radio announcers left and right, but Dan’s commitment to it never fades, even when he’s moved away to another state.”
Ford is ready to literally write the next chapter of his Bayfield book. He has kept track of every detail from this season to be ready to produce the next edition. When it comes to following high school sports, Ford said he will never tire of his hobby.
“High school sports are refreshing every year,” Ford said. “You start over with new kids, a new schedule, new energy and a new hope that you’re going to have a great season and enjoy a lot of great games. The newness had a lot to do with it for me. With high school coaches, there’s not a lot of money involved. Kids devote themselves and coaches devote themselves, and that’s endearing to me.
“I’m particularly excited that I have all that info recorded from this season that I can patch on to the book. To hear some of the parents talk about this record or that record, I smile.”