During the TSSAA Board of Control meeting Thursday in Nashville, the state's prep sports governing body announced the total attendance for the 2018 state football playoffs was down nearly 30,000 people from the previous year. Paid attendance was down 19 percent (bringing in $121,319 less than in 2017).
Those figures account for the first through fourth rounds only. The state championship games — all nine of which are played over a three-day stretch in Cookeville — will be announced as a separate figure at the next Board of Control meeting in March.
This marks the second consecutive year that prep football playoff attendance in Tennessee has declined. According to TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, his is not the only state association facing that trend.
"I just left the winter meetings for all high school associations across the nation, and every single director voiced their concern over where their playoff attendance figures are in football," Childress said. "Are we in a state of panic? No. Are we concerned? Very much so, because this is the second year in a row where we've seen a drop in playoff attendance.
"We'll look at every possible answer, including whether we have too many teams making the playoffs. We understand fans only have so much money to spend on entertainment, and maybe they're staying home during the early rounds when there are a lot more mismatches and lopsided games."
The Tennessee playoffs brought in a total of just under $1.4 million this past season. Fifty percent of that total was dispersed among the TSSAA member schools that participated in the playoffs, 25 percent ($345,606.50) was used to pay for the state's catastrophic-insurance policy for players, and the rest (12.5 percent each) was paid for game officials and to the TSSAA.
Playoff admission was $8 per ticket for each of the first four rounds.
"I think the board wants to wait and see before making any plans for changes, but I started talking to the finance committee at the first of the year and I would encourage the board to wake up now and let's take a look at this rather than waiting to see if we have a decrease in attendance for a third year," Childress added. "I would like to look at and discuss several options, including possibly decreasing ticket prices for students to encourage more of them to come to the games.
"The one thing I will not allow are any changes that would negatively affect the experience of the kids competing. But other than that, I believe we've come to the time where we have to come up with some solutions."
GHSA area duals
Wrestling teams throughout Georgia will begin the trek to Macon, Part I, today and Saturday in qualifiers for the state-championship duals tournaments. Several northwest Georgia teams will be in contention, including Dalton at the Class AAAAAA Area 6 dual at Sprayberry. Michael Keefe's Catamounts, who made the state field a year ago, have had several strong tournament showings this season.
Host Heritage will be among the contenders in the GHSA's talented Class AAAA Area 4, where state power Gilmer and Ridgeland should also fight for the two state berths. Another talented field will go at it at Sonoraville in the Class AAA Area 3 tournament, where the defending state traditional and duals runners-up will be favored. Rockmart hosts the Class AA Area 5 tournament, which includes contenders Chattooga and Dade County, while host Trion and Gordon Lee will vie for state berths in the Class A Area 4 tournament.
The state championships run next Thursday through Saturday at the Macon Centreplex, which will also host the state traditional tournament Feb. 13-16.
Cleveland 106-pound sophomore Trae McDaniel has become a nationally respected force on the mat. McDaniel, nicknamed the "baby-faced assassin," may occupy the lightest weight classification but packs plenty of power for a dominant Class AAA program with high hopes to repeat at the TSSAA state traditional and duals tournaments next month.
Driven to improve after dropping a 5-3 decision in the state finals last season, McDaniel has pushed himself to a new level. Since suffering a tough defeat he has achieved All-American status as a cadet in the prestigious USA Wrestling National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, to go with first-place finishes in the McCallie Invitational and Knockout Christmas Classic in Osceola, Florida.
McDaniel's strong form and fiery drive have elevated him to a 31-0 record and No. 12 in InterMat Wrestling's national rankings. He is 69-4 in his career.
Bledsoe hires Tabor
Dewayne Tabor has been announced as the new head football coach at Bledsoe County. He takes over for Kris Frady, who served as the Warriors' interim coach in a 3-8 2018 season that included a trip to the Class 2A playoffs.
Tabor has been the head coach at Monterey (1994-96) and Stewart County (2000-03), and he has been an assistant at Emanuel County Institute in Twin City, Georgia, the past 14 years, working as offensive coordinator the last 11 seasons.