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Alumni football game OK'd despite BOE member concerns about player injury, death

July 11th, 2014 5:00 pm by Jeff Bobo

Alumni football game OK'd despite BOE member concerns about player injury, death

This Volunteer High School alumni football player suffered a bloodied nose during last year's game. School board member bob Larkins said Thursday someone may be badly hurt or killed in this year's game. (photo by Jeff Bobo)

ROGERSVILLE — After weeks of planning, with organizers doing everything the Board of Education asked them to do, this year's Hawkins County alumni football game was nearly derailed Thursday night by a board member who expressed concerns about players getting hurt or killed.

The third annual game, which pits former Cherokee High School players versus Volunteer High School alumni, serves as a fundraiser for both schools.

Thursday evening the BOE voted 4-3 in favor of this year's game which will be played at Cherokee on Sept. 20.

The schools will split the gate receipts with Alumni Football USA, which organizes the game and provides uniforms and equipment for $100 per player. There will be no pre-game ticket sales this year, and all concession sales will go to the school.

All players will have signed a waiver releasing the school system and Alumni football USA from any liability, and BOE chairman Randy Collier strongly urged organizers to make sure all players have heath insurance.

There were a couple of injuries last year in which players unsuccessfully sought assistance for medical bills from the school system.

As the board was preparing to take its vote, board member Bob Larkins interjected some concerns about the game, and whether it is something the BOE should be involved in.

"I know a lot of work has been done on this in the past several weeks and months, but my particular concern is, the mission of the school board has little or nothing to do with alumni football," Larkins said. "We're here to educate and graduate, to focus on academics, and not be fundraisers. I think this has tremendous potential for something to go afoul."

Larkins said he's not opposed to the alumni football game, and if a non-profit group had taken on the project and simply request ed use of the facility, that would be fine.

Larkins said he is opposed to the BOE sanctioning, or partnering in venture that could involve serious personal injury or death.

"These men are probably not conditioned properly," Larkins added. "I'm sure they're going to go out there and give 110 percent. I'd hate to see an injury — a serious permanent injury — or a fatality. A heart attack. I just hate to put my name on anything that doesn't have anything to do with the students of Hawkins County, or staff." Larkins added, "For the small amount of money that it's raising I think it has tremendous potential to cause lots of harm to our community."

Last year's game at Volunteer raised $4,260 from pre-grame ticket sales and $2,174 from concession sales.

Cherokee only earned $815 because the school received its pre-game tickets only a few days before the game.

The revenue split was structured differently last year, however. The schools got 50 percent of pre-game ticket sales and nothing from game-day ticket sales.

With no pre-game ticket sales this year and 50 percent of game-day sales going to the schools, the school revenue is expected to be substantially higher.

Collier said that revenue is essential to school sports teams and other student organizations that will benefit, especially in light of potential budget cuts this year that could put financial more burden on schools and parents.

"We're facing budget issues, and I know that we don't need to be involved in fundraising, but we do through candy sales and stuff like that," Collier said. "We need to get creative. I'm afraid the cuts are coming, and I would project that some of them are going to come from the athletics program. This might be a way of supplementing some of the cuts."

Those who voted against approving the game included Larkins, Debbie Shedden and Holly Helton.

Cherokee alumni player Ketron Bailey, who has served as a liaison between players, Alumni Football USA, and the BOE, said the goal for next year it to form a non-profit Hawkins County alumni player's organization to put on the games. He said a group in Boone, N.C. which took similar steps raised $25,000 for its schools with its last game. 

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