MURFREESBORO – By trade, John Jones runs his own successful real estate firm. With family, it’s the proud father of four, including Tennessee freshman offensive lineman Jack Jones.
But unwittingly, Jones has taken on a new role, and that is one by proxy of being the director of the inaugural Middle Tennessee Football Classic on Saturday at Floyd Stadium that pits two Rutherford County high school football powers against two of the top programs in Alabama.
At 4 p.m., Blackman plays Clay-Chalkville, followed by Oakland taking on Hoover at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 for the doubleheader. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and at the gate.
The doubleheader was the idea of former Blackman coach Philip Shadowens and former Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel, who enlisted the services of Jones to help garner support from the local business community.
But when Shadowens departed to become coach at William Blount High School in Maryville and McDaniel headed west for a similar gig at Christian Brothers in Memphis, that left Jones holding the bag. The doubleheader had progressed past the point of just being a pipe dream, but rather one that had contractual obligations already signed by all four high schools involved.
“(Call me) the Don King of football promotions,” Jones said with a laugh. “It started with Philip Shadowens, former Blackman coach, and Tommy McDaniel, former Oakland coach, kind of getting this going. I was the only guy dumb enough to be in the room when they were talking it out.
“So, they obviously went on to greener pastures, then it kind of fell into my lap.”
While the deals had already been cut with the two Alabama schools to come here this coming weekend, including guarantee money, hotel rooms, etc., there still wasn’t a deal in place to play the game at MTSU’s Floyd Stadium. The first person Jones visited when the overall responsibility for the doubleheader occurred was MTSU athletics director Chris Massaro.
“Although Chris didn’t see any issues with us using MTSU that weekend, we really didn’t have a contract with MTSU,” Jones said. “So, thank God they were accommodating, because we already had signed contracts with the two schools from Alabama. But Chris and his staff, they were awesome.
“They have given us so much direction. They have given me a lot of great ideas. There is a lot that goes into these games that you just don’t think about, unless you are involved in one. MTSU has been spectacular in how well that have treated us in trying to help us get through this thing.”
Jones then knew he needed to line up corporate support to help offset costs for staging the event, especially if weather becomes a factor and adversely impacts attendance. The doubleheader is now officially called the Middle Tennessee Football Classic presented by Venture Express.
Other businesses stepping up to support the event include Toot’s Restaurants, First National Bank of Middle Tennessee, the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, Governor’s Highway Safety Office, Franklin American Mortgage and Bridgestone.
“I want to see it be a success, not only for both the local schools, but for Murfreesboro, MTSU, for everybody,” Jones said. “I’ve got a lot of pride in our community, and I want to try to make this thing be as good as it possibly can be.”
Jones fielded several inquiries to have the doubleheader broadcast on television, but wanted to make sure the event became a “must-see live” affair that features not only four top high school football programs from bordering states, but some of the top college prospects in the southeast.
“We are keeping it off TV for a reason,” Jones said. “We want people to come out from all over Middle Tennessee — all the high school kids that played that Friday night, all their parents, coaches — we really want them to come out and support this event. For it to be a success, we need people to be there.”
Greg Pogue is host of The Greg Pogue & Big Joe Show on WNSR 560 AM. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @ThePoguester.