this is disgraceful. i'd bet that the harvey updyke types who stoop to this kind of thing have never set foot inside a u.t. classroom. supporting the team is one thing; being a low-class moron is something else entirely. being a tennessee grad and a native of cleveland (20 miles south of athens) makes me doubly embarrassed for my school and my home.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban will be the featured speaker tomorrow night at a benefit dinner in Athens, Tennessee. Athens is about an hour south of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee campus.
Reaction to the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce’s decision to bring Saban across enemy lines has been both good and bad. Good in that a sellout crowd of 1,500 is expected to attend (and pour cash into the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce). Bad in that security is having to be “beefed up” ahead of the event.
According to the president of the AACofC, Rob Preston, there have been more than 100 complaints about Saban’s invitation to the McMinn County event. “We’ve gotten emails. We’ve gotten phone calls. Most of the phone calls happen at 2 o’clock in the morning or when we’re not here. They leave it on the machine.”
Interestingly, Tennessee native and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was the first coach to speak at a benefit for the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. According to Preston, there was hardly any negative feedback associated with Spurrier’s appearance.
So why the anger over Saban’s invite? “Some people say this is a combined effort to help Alabama’s recruiting. I know to you that sounds ridiculous — and it is very ridiculous — but (some) people think that’s what this is about.”
Previous speakers have included the aforementioned Spurrier, actor Kirk Cameron, actor Lou Ferrigno, former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl, and former baseball star Pete Rose (quite an eclectic bunch). Last year former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and a pair of players from his 1998 BCS championship team headlined the event.
None of those speakers drove ticket sales as high as Saban has… which is precisely why the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce invited the four-time BCS champion coach to speak at their benefit.
For those misguided individuals who believe the city of Athens and Alabama’s coach are working in cahoots to open a Bama recruiting pipeline into Southeast Tennessee, well, there have been about 100 players from the entire Volunteer State drafted into the NFL since the late-80s. If Saban’s accepting speaking engagements in order to help with recruiting, he’d be better served by accepting offers in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas.
It’s a speech at a benefit dinner. Relax.