Tag Archives: football

Building Commission Signs Off on Bledsoe Prison, ETSU, Memphis Projects

On Prisons
The State Building Commission on Thursday gave the green light to more than a half-billion dollars worth of construction and upgrades for dozens of projects, including a $30 million, 512-bed expansion of the Bledsoe Correctional Facility in Pikeville, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The expansion will handle medium-security prisoners. The project also will provide minor modifications to house female inmates in separate security facilities within the complex.
Commission members also approved some $21 million to beef up security at state prisons, including $4.4 million for a specialty security contractor to replace what a Building Commission document described as “aging and failing locking systems” in facilities statewide.
Many of the projects were included in the new state budget that went into effect July 1 but required commission approval to proceed.

ETSU Football
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced the Tennessee State Building Commission’s approval of a project to build a new football stadium for East Tennessee State University.
From the Kingsport Times-News:
After a decade-long hiatus, ETSU has recently rebooted its football program under the supervision of former University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. Last month, ETSU hired former University of North Carolina coach Carl Torbush as the university’s new head coach for the program.
“I’m so proud to have football coming back to the East Tennessee State University. College is first and foremost about academics but a full and complete college experience is crucial to attracting top top-quality students to the university,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey.
“The return of football to the ETSU campus will enrich university life in so many ways. But the first step to building a great football program is building a high-quality facility. I’m excited that the commission has approved this outstanding project.”

Privatized Housing at U of M
The long-delayed Highland Row project near the University of Memphis may finally start construction this fall, as a result of a new affiliation agreement U of M is proposing with a private nonprofit developer for the residential space in the upper floors of the multiuse center, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The university asked the State Building Commission Thursday to fast-track approval of an agreement with Alabama-based Collegiate Housing Foundation that will help arrange financing. Under the agreement, rental of the apartments will be limited to U of M students, faculty and staff and the University of Memphis name will be affixed to the privately owned and managed facility.
…Memphis-based Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers announced the $65 million Highland Row in 2008 but was unable to obtain financing when the recession deepened. It will have retail space on its ground floor, anchored by a 40,000-square-foot full-service Barnes & Noble bookstore that will serve as the university’s official bookstore.
Apartments were always planned for the upper three floors but the affiliation agreement is new, putting the U of M brand on it as “affiliated housing” and limiting occupancy to about 550 students and employees.

Haslam Sees Financial Woes in Losing UT Football Program

Gov. Bill Haslam tells the Chattanooga TFP that the University of Tennessee’s football team can’t continue down the road followed during the past season or two.
“They can’t be average, and you hate to say it that way, but financially it just doesn’t work,” Haslam said Thursday afternoon. “They have to fill that stadium up. They get the benefit of being a part of the SEC and all the TV money that comes with that, but at the end of the day, if they can’t fill that stadium up and sell concessions, then not just the football program but all the other sports that benefit from a strong football program suffer.”
The Volunteers, who not long ago racked up 10-win seasons and New Year’s Day bowl invitations with great regularity, are just 28-34 the past five years and 12-28 in league play. Tennessee has its fourth head coach since 2008, and a report this week in the SportsBusiness Journal detailed the athletic department’s financial woes.
Tennessee is carrying more than $200 million of debt, according to the article, which is not unlike recent debt figures at Alabama and LSU. Yet Tennessee’s reserves are just $1.95 million, whereas most every other SEC institution has reserves between $50 million and $100 million.
The SportsBusiness Journal reported that Tennessee’s athletic department spends $21 million annually on debt payments, $13.5 million of which comes from the university’s stressed $99.5 million athletic budget and the rest from donations. Athletic director Dave Hart was quoted as saying, “We’ve got to get football healthy.”
“If you want to be bottom line about it, it shows why UT-Knoxville has to be good in football,” Haslam said. “You have a whole program that’s set up with a 100,000-seat Neyland Stadium, and it’s a program that supports all the other sports other than basketball and provides scholarships back to the university.”
This past football season, the Vols lost their first seven conference games for the first time in program history, which included a third consecutive 31-point setback against longtime rival Alabama. Attendance dropped sharply after the loss to the Crimson Tide, and the Vols wound up averaging 89,965 fans per home game.
It was the lowest season average for Tennessee since 1979, when Neyland had a capacity of 80,250.

Haslam Backs Firing of UT Football Coach; Silent on Successor

Chas Sisk reports that Gov. Bill Haslam, who is chairman of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, supports the decision to fire UT football coach Derek Dooley…. but has no opinion on a successor or the salary he should be paid.
“Ultimately college football at a school as big as Tennessee, it is about results,” Haslam said. “I like Derek a lot. I think he in a lot of ways brought a lot of things to the program … but for Tennessee to have the football program they need, they need to have a better won-lost record than they’ve had for the last three years.”
Haslam said he did not have a favorite to replace Dooley. Nor would he say how much Dooley’s replacement should be paid — an issue for the UT athletic department as it faces a budget crunch after buying out its third coach’s contract in less than five years.
“I don’t think ultimately that’s the governor’s decision,” he said. “In the end, the reality is Tennessee football is a big revenue-producing sport, and it helps finance scholarships for the rest of the school student body as well as a lot of the other, non-revenue-producing sports. In order for Tennessee to work, they need to have a successful program.”

UT Football Prayers OK, Officials Say

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee plans to continue allowing pregame prayers at Neyland Stadium after receiving a letter from an organization arguing that the practice is unconstitutional.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek asking that the university stop the use of prayer at university functions and sporting events. Cheek released a letter Wednesday in which he said he had discussed the matter with the school’s counsel and was told that “nonsectarian prayer at public university events does not violate the First Amendment.”
Cheek told the Wisconsin-based atheist group that he had given the issue “careful consideration” but that the school would continue to allow prayers before university events.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, said the use of the word “nonsectarian” indicates that Tennessee shouldn’t have a clergyman conducting prayers with overt Christian references.
“They’ve been praying to Jesus and inviting clergy to come lead the prayer,” Gaylor said. “Nonsectarian would be (that) you wouldn’t have a member of the clergy who’s tied to a denomination, so they’re not going to talk about Jesus. They shouldn’t be talking about the Bible. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be praying at all.”
Gaylor added that she would encourage students upset with the university’s decision to remain active about the issue.
UT-Chattanooga decided last week to stop its use of a pregame prayer after receiving a similar letter. The public address announcer instead invites the crowd before the national anthem to observe a moment of silence “in consideration of the safety of today’s players, the service of those who protect us at home and abroad and the needs of those who suffer.”
“We didn’t want our events to be something that anyone felt excluded from,” UT-Chattanooga spokesman Chuck Cantrell said. “We recognize that we have a diverse community here in Chattanooga and especially on campus, and we just didn’t want to be doing anything that made any of our guests feel unwelcome. We felt a moment of silence offered equality and parity for everybody.”

Note: This updates and replaces earlier post.

Coach Bill’s Team and Fumbles on the Legislative Playing Field

Andy Sher begins a roundup report on the snags Gov. Bill Haslam has encountered in passing his legislative agenda by repeating the governor’s likening of his administration to a football team – last year spent in the locker room trying on helmets and shoulder pads; this year on the field to play.
It’s a good thing they’re wearing shoulder pads and helmets. Because even though he’s a Republican and the state House and Senate are GOP-controlled, Haslam and his team are running into their fair share of blocks, tackles and head-butts as they try to move bills.
….Haslam spokesman David Smith said that “in proposing substantive and meaningful legislation, it is not surprising that there is a lot of debate and discussion as part of the legislative process.”
Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Haslam is encountering the normal checks and balances provided by the legislature.
Lawmakers respect the executive branch and the agendas that governors put forth, Watson said.
But, he added, “To think that just because he’s a Republican governor and we’re a Republican legislature, that we’re not going to do our duty as representatives of the citizens — it would be a false assumption.”

AP Interviews UT President on Athletics (‘We are not pleased’) and Academics

By Bill Poovey, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — After almost a year as president of the University of Tennessee, there is no hiding Joe DiPietro’s enthusiasm for his system-wide strategic plan, his efforts to streamline the replacement of outdated learning facilities and promote all the campuses.
In the most publicly visible part of UT, DiPietro also shares the frustrations of many Vols’ fans about the losing football season and the shake-up in men’s basketball.
He told The Associated Press those programs are rebuilding and he has confidence in the people leading them.
Asked about repercussions of basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s firing in March, DiPietro said the Knoxville chancellor manages athletics but “the key is in rebuilding the program from a low spot, you need to, one, have patience.”
After a losing season under football coach Derek Dooley and the basketball team currently 4-6 under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin, DiPietro said, “We are not pleased.”

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Audit Finds Missing Money, Cash to Coaches in High School Football Club

News release from comptroller’s office:
Riverdale High School’s football team has had tremendous success on the field over the last two decades – winning four state championships and finishing as state runner-up five times.
However, a review by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit found a number of off-the-field problems not with the championship players, but with a group of adults that raises money to support the Rutherford County football powerhouse.
The investigative audit uncovered numerous problems with the collection and accounting of funds by the Riverdale High School Quarterback Club that appear to have led to thousands of dollars in missing or misspent fundraiser profits.
Also, auditors found that the club paid at least $7,000 to the school’s athletic director, an assistant football coach and a volunteer wrestling coach in violation of school board and Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules. Auditors were unable to find any documentation that the club issued IRS Form 1099 for tax purposes to those three individuals.
The audit, which covers the period from January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, was launched in the fall of 2008 but its completion was delayed by a year because club officers refused to produce documents auditors needed to finish their work.
The findings of the audit, outlined in letters sent to Riverdale High School Quarterback Club and Rutherford County school officials today, also disclosed that the Quarterback Club ran its concession stand in violation of state law for the 2008 football season by not maintaining proper documentation of expenses and profits. Because records were inadequate, state auditors were unable to determine whether the lower-than-expected profit was the result of theft, mismanagement or other reasons. The audit noted that the former club president, who was in charge of ordering products for the concession stand, was also the salesman for the company from which most concession products were purchased.
Documentation of other fundraising activities by the club was also inadequate, making it impossible for auditors to determine if fundraising proceeds were properly deposited or misappropriated. The club’s treasurer didn’t issue any receipts for collections between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 and documentation was insufficient to determine if deposits were made for at least two of the fundraising activities.
Auditors also discovered that the Quarterback Club’s debit card was used to purchase alcoholic beverages and that the club received and deposited collections from season ticket sales which, according to state law, belonged to the school.
“It is obvious that the students, parents, teachers and administrators at Riverdale High School have a great deal of pride in their football team,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s very unfortunate that poor record-keeping and accounting practices by the Riverdale High School Quarterback Club could distract from the on-field accomplishments of the team and its student-athletes. Also, in the future, I hope club officials will be more mindful of the requirements they have to provide certain financial information to our auditors.”
To view the report online, go to:

ICYMI, Haslam’s Team Lost the Superbowl

James “Jimmy” Haslam III, brother of Gov. Bill Haslam, owns a minority interest in the Pittsburg Steelers. He told Dave Link how it came about (prior to Sunday’s Superbowl game, won by the Green Bay Packers) and how the Steelers are kinda like Pilot Corp.
An excerpt:
“It was all luck,” Haslam said. “About 10 years ago, we were meeting with some investment bankers in Knoxville concerning some Pilot business and there was a guy there who didn’t say much at the end of the table, and I asked him what he did, and he said his specialty was pro sports. I said, ‘We love sports, and if anything comes up, call me.’ ”
That banker was Randy Campbell, who works for Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., in New York.
Haslam got a callback from Campbell in 2008.
“He called and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ ” Haslam said. “Actually, I did not. We ended up talking and he told us about the Steelers opportunity. I went up and had lunch with Art and Dan Rooney (the Steelers’ owners) and one thing led to another and that’s how it transpired.”
During the lunch, Haslam saw a similarity between the Steelers and Pilot, which was founded by Haslam’s father, Jim Haslam II.
Art Rooney Sr. founded the Steelers in 1933. His son, Dan, guided the team through its highly successful run in the 1970s. In recent years, Dan’s son, Art Rooney II, has been the primary decision maker for the team.
“When I went up there and talked to the Steelers, I came back and told Dad, ‘They’re just like us. They have a family business, and the family members run it,’ ” Jimmy Haslam said. “There’s an obvious parallel there.”