Champions Are Made Here: Tucker Stadium to host TSSAA through 2016
Aug 14, 2012
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The large sign on the back of Tennessee
Tech’s Tucker Stadium proclaims: “Champions Are Made
Yes, they are.
Not only did the Golden Eagles capture the 2011 Ohio Valley
Conference championship on the Tucker Stadium turf, the state of
Tennessee has determined its high school football champions on
Overall Field for the past three years. The 2012 championship games
are scheduled for Dec. 6-8.
On Monday, Tech and the City of Cookeville received a four-year
extension to host the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl games, keeping the eight
title games in the Tucker Stadium through 2016.
“We are honored to be able to continue to host these
games,” said Mark Wilson, TTU Director of Athletics.
“This has been a great partnership between all the local
entities, and we will continue to roll out the red carpet for all
of those high school football players, their families and
Cookeville and Tech initially received the bid in 2009 to host
the eight TSSAA championship games for two years, then received two
additional years after the games were such a success.
Monday’s action by the TSSAA Board of Control extends the
contract four more years.
"TSSAA has found a home," said George Halford, Cookeville-Putnam
County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "We are pleased they
have the confidence in us to go forward.
“This was a great team effort,” Halford said.
“One of the biggest concerns of the TSSAA was whether
we’d continue to be excited after the first couple of years,
or if our enthusiasm might diminish. If anything, I think the level
of regional and community excitement has grown. We’ve had 650
volunteers, great leadership, and we’re all so proud of our
community and our region.”
A group representing "Team Cookeville" traveled to the TSSAA
office on Monday to make a presentation and show the enthusiasm and
unity that has defined Cookeville's effort in hosting the BlueCross
Bowl games. Among the representatives were Connie Albrecht, Terry
Alley, JoeMac Bennett, Molly Brown, John Donnelly, Halford, Mark
Hutchins, Thomas Lynn, Kristie Phillips, Ottis Phillips, Dr.
Phillip Oldham, Jim Shipley, Kristen Wells, Mark Wilson, Laura
Wolf, Jim Woodford and TSSAA steering committee chairman Chuck
“We won it, and now we’ve just taken it to a new
level,” Halford said. “It’s been a real team
effort. I’m very humbled by the confidence that they have
expressed in us to give us another four years. This gives us time
now to make significant improvements to our facilities. We have
some opportunities to do some very significant things.”
Former Golden Eagle baseball standout and TTU alum Tommy Layne,
who is the principal at Sequatchie County, made the motion to
extend the contract with Cookeville for four more years during
Monday’s meeting. Chuck West, the principal of Dresden High,
seconded the motion. All were in favor. The TSSAA board of control
also had high praise for the way Cookeville and TTU have been
hosting the Blue Cross Bowl games.
Boasting more than 600 volunteers, the BlueCross Bowl games have
become a sense of pride for TTU, Cookeville and Putnam County. They
have also provided a huge economic impact for the local businesses
while providing a championship atmosphere for the players, coaches
“It’s been great to know that all of these students
and their fans make it a mission to get to Cookeville,”
Wilson said. “The exposure we garner from hosting these games
Golden Eagle head coach Watson Brown, a native of Cookeville,
expressed gratitude in the community for its efforts in hosting the
“It’s just fantastic. The first time we got the bid,
the community did a great job of hosting it and making it an event,
and making everyone feel welcome,” Brown said. “Now,
it’s even neater to get it this second go-round. This time
it’s because of all the work they’ve done in hosting.
The chamber, the community, Tennessee Tech. We
certainly appreciate all the work they’ve all
Brown says the fact that Tech hosts the championship games has
also proven to benefit Golden Eagle football.
“Hosting these games means an awful lot to our
program,” Brown said. “We have 10 or 12 kids on our
team right now who have played in these games. Plus think of all
the kids who just tried to get here. It’s their goal. Playing
in this stadium is what they all strive for.”
One of those current Golden Eagle players is Austin Tallant, now a
sophomore defensive back.
“I remember how excited we were to get to play at Tech, and
to play on turf,” said Tallant, who was named to the OVC
all-freshman team last season in his first year at Tech one year
after leading his Alcoa team to the 2011 title on Overall
“We had played here once in the season,” he said.
“Our game with Stone Memorial was moved to here because there
was so much rain. We looked around and we all said
‘wow’ we really need to get back here.”
And, for all the hype of the crowds and the games and what was on
the line, what memory stands out brightest for Tallant?
“Honestly, the locker room,” he said, standing in
front of his current TTU locker with his name printed above.
“My locker was right down there. It didn’t have my name
on it, but it was really special being in here. I was thinking
‘Tech’ all the time.”
And the hospitality offered by the Cookeville community to the
visiting teams helped tremendously, Tallant added.
“We did our walk-through inside Stevens Street Church. That
was great. They cooked for us and everybody treated us so well. All
of those things really helped to make the whole experience
Another current Tech standout, linebacker Tra’Darrius Goff,
came to Tech and plays on the same field where he punctuated his
prep career. Goff earned the historic distinction of being
named both the Offensive MVP AND Defensive MVP in the 2010
championship game for Columbia High School
“The atmosphere is what I remember the most, and how they
made us all feel so much at home,” Goff said. “We
really felt at home.
“It was just so exciting to get here and to play in this
stadium in front of our fans,” Goff said. “I really
liked it here. It’s a smaller stadium so the stands looked
full. It was loud and the people really got into the
Playing in Tucker Stadium was the driving force behind
Columbia’s success, which used “The Road to
Cookeville” as its daily mantra.
“That’s the way we broke it down every day in
practice,” Goff said.
So, for at least the next five high school football seasons, the
road to the Tennessee State Championships will continue to head
directly to Cookeville and Tucker Stadium.
Note: Some of the information in this story was provided by
Buddy Pearson, Cookeville Herald-Citizen.