Chattanooga could receive extension as BlueCross Bowl host

Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Alcoa's Major Newman takes off with the TSSAA Class 3A football state championship trophy as teammates McCoy Mothershed (60) and Itty Salter and follow after the Tornadoes defeated East Nashville 45-14 in a BlueCross Bowl title game at Finley Stadium on Dec. 3, 2021.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control meeting Thursday included an agenda item regarding a contract extension with Chattanooga Sports to keep the BlueCross Bowl in the Scenic City.

After discussion, the Board of Control opted to postpone any decision in order to allow TSSAA officials to meet with Chattanooga Sports representatives and ensure they agree to keep the details of an extension the same as the original contract.

Matthew Gillespie, an assistant director for the TSSAA, said that meeting will take place after this year’s BlueCross Bowl; those nine state title games for football are Dec. 1-3 at Finley Stadium. If Chattanooga Sports agrees to not make any changes to the original agreement, the Board of Control will then vote — as early as January — to extend the contract with Chattanooga as host of the event for an additional two years.

“We have no reservation whatsoever for remaining in Chattanooga,” TSSAA executive director Mark Reeves told the board during their discussion.

If Chattanooga Sports wanted to make changes to the agreement, the TSSAA would then likely reopen the BlueCross Bowl for bids from other cities.

As part of Chattanooga’s original bid that won the contractual rights to host the BlueCross Bowl for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the TSSAA is guaranteed $250,000. All profits above that total go to reimburse Chattanooga Sports to cover the event’s expenses.

According to TSSAA figures, last year’s BlueCross Bowl three-day total attendance of 27,052 exceeded the highest mark within the previous five seasons by more than 6,000 fans. That included Thursday attendance of 10,211 at Finley, when the Division II schools — including McCallie — played their title games, and a total of 10,796 on Saturday, the event’s final day.

The TSSAA began its playoff format to decide football state champions in 1969, then in 1982 moved the three title games to a central location, Vanderbilt's Dudley Field. The TSSAA has since expanded to nine classifications, and the location for the title round has changed three times: to Middle Tennessee State University’s Floyd Stadium in 2000, when the event gained a title sponsor and became the BlueCross Bowl, and to Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in 2009 before last year's move to Finley.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

Updated with more information at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2022.