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David Ferrell was sure he had coached his last basketball game when he agreed to act as a liaison between The New School in Fayetteville and the Arkansas Activities Association.

The New School has been around since the 1970s, but only recently decided to upgrade its athletics program with the goal of becoming a member of the AAA, the governing body of high school athletics in Arkansas.

Ferrell had planned to spend last year watching his son, Josh, coach boys basketball at Caddo Hills. But the more Dennis Chapman, the former president and head of school at The New School, talked, the more David Ferrell listened.

“I was just the liaison without even stepping on campus,” Ferrell said. “But once I saw the school, the new gym, and listened to the vision Dennis Chapman had for The New School, one thing led to another and I took the job. It was a unique opportunity to start a program from the ground floor.”

Cody Vaught also has an opportunity to build a program from scratch as the athletic director and basketball coach at Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown. There’s long been talk about establishing a Catholic school in Northwest Arkansas, and that became a reality Aug. 16 when Ozark Catholic Academy opened its doors to 25 students.

“Northwest Arkansas was the largest metropolitan area in the country without a Catholic high school,” Vaught said. “I wanted to put my own name onto a program that I could be proud of starting in the future.”

The Griffins will play a junior varsity schedule this year with the goal of becoming fully accredited and joining the AAA as a varsity program in 2020.

The New School also played a junior varsity schedule before being assigned by the AAA to the 1A-1 Conference with Alpena, Jasper, Mount Judea, Kingston, Deer, Haas Hall-Springdale and Haas Hall-Rogers. The Cougars are 5-0 after making their varsity debut Oct. 17 with a 67-38 victory over Pleasant View-Mulberry.

“Make the playoffs, that’s the goal,” Ferrell said of his team, which is comprised of sophomores and juniors.

Ferrell, 54, also coaches the junior high boys’ team and oversees all the boys and girls basketball programs, starting with the youth teams at The New School.

Ferrell brings plenty of experience after coaching both at the high school and college level in Arkansas. He coached for 23 years, mostly at West Fork, and compiled a record of 510-202. He also coached at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville for four years, where he compiled a 48-38 record. That opportunity enabled him to coach his son, who was a starting guard for the Eagles.

Vaught got his start as an assistant coach at West Fork, where he was hired by Ferrell. He also coached junior high basketball at Ozark before he earned his first head coaching job at Hector. He then returned to West Fork as head coach and won two conference championships in four years before being hired at Ozark Catholic Academy.

Vaught grew up in Altus and attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He then transferred to Clarksville, where he was an all-around athlete who participated in four sports.

Vaught said joining Ozark Catholic Academy allows him to continue his faith on and off the court and fulfills an obligation to his father, who died of brain cancer in 2011.

“My father was beginning the process of becoming a deacon in the Catholic Church,” Vaught said. “One small way of continuing my family and his devotion to the Catholic Church was by helping the Catholic school in NWA. I also had my school at Altus-St. Mary’s shut down when I was in 5th grade. I wanted to bridge the gap for other Catholic boys and girls to continue their education that I was not able to do.”

Ozark Catholic is following the same path as The New School and the Griffins will likely be assigned to the same conference as the Cougars in 2020. Currently, there are seven players on both the boys and girls basketball teams, and the Griffins also field teams in cross country, golf, and track and field in the spring.

The list of activities represents a small first step in an idea for a Catholic school that has been 30 years in the making.

Rick Fires can be reached at [email protected] nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.

Print Headline: The New School, Ozark Catholic Academy debut basketball programs

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