When the Classic 150 Roast/Toast of Champions annual fundraising event is staged on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Chattanooga Convention Center, a name more than a little familiar to University of Tennessee fans will play a major role.
And new UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer isn't even the guest of honor. That label will fall to Volunteers super fan and major donor John "Thunder" Thornton. Fulmer merely will be one of the roasters, along with former Tennessee football coach and ex-Alabama AD Bill Battle and businessmen Allan Jones, Bill Kilbride and Honk Spelman.
And Thornton wouldn't have it any other way.
"Sports have played an important part in my life, and I am especially pleased to be the roastee for the Classic 150 — an organization that has done so much to increase the awareness of Chattanooga through sports," Thornton said through a release. "I can only hope that the roasters will go easy on me and not feel like they need to tell everything they know about me."
Asked about the roast a couple of weeks ago at a Vols basketball game, Fulmer didn't sound like he was willing to take it any easier on his good friend than he did on Kentucky during his 16 years as Tennessee's head football coach. He beat the Wildcats all 16 times he faced them.
"I'm excited about the event," Fulmer said. "And I'm looking forward to blistering John that night."
Funds raised at the roast will be used to assist the Classic 150 in bringing sporting events with national or regional recognition to Chattanooga. These events provide economic development opportunities to the community. The Classic 150 is a membership organization and is an IRS 501 (c) 3 nonprofit.
For over 20 years, the Classic 150 has invested more than $2 million in bringing such sporting events to the Scenic City as the PGA Tour, the NCAA Division I men's golf national tournament, the NCAA women's basketball regional tournament and others. According to Classic 150, these events have generated almost $100 million in economic benefit to the Chattanooga community.
"I can think of no more appropriate community leader to honor at this event than Thunder Thornton," said Hal North, the Roast/Toast committee chairman.
Previous honorees include former UTC chancellor Fred and Ruth Obear, the late Gary Haskew, former UTC football coach Russ Huesman and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.
More details about the roast will become available later.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.