Paul Wade is one person who is quite enthusiastic about the move of the state championship football games to Cookeville.
The Davidson Academy coach played his college career at Tennessee Tech, which last week was named the site of the TSSAA state championship games. Tech will host the games for the next two seasons, 2009 and 2010.
“As a former player there, I’m very excited for Tech. I played or served as an assistant coach there for five years,’’ said Wade, whose team is used to championship game appearances, having won titles in Division II-A at Davidson in ’05, ’07, then last year, ’08.
“It’s an awesome school, one that I have a great admiration for. It was a place where I began my career in 1986,’’ he said. “They (Tech and Cookeville officials) stepped up and made a great presentation to the TSSAA and were rewarded with the game site.’’
The games were moved from Murfreesboro for the first time since 2000 after a vote last week.
Wade played center at Tech, a place he attended from 1986-91 after graduating from old Dupont High. He was a varsity player for three seasons before becoming a graduate assistant for two years at Tech.
But, make no mistake — Wade would have been perfectly content for MTSU to have remained the finals site.
“Teams I’ve coached are 5-0 in finals games at MTSU,’’ Wade said, rattling off Class A state championships Christ Presbyterian Academy won in 2000 and 2002, along with the three at DA. Wade was an assistant under David Pack in the CPA title runs.
“But I certainly wouldn’t mind a trip on I-40 East at the very end of next season. That would mean I’ll be taking a team to a state championship game at my alma mater.’’
Another coach who has some championship game experience is Lipscomb Coach Glenn McCadams whose Mustangs won the title in 2007 and were runners-up in 2008 at MTSU.
“I think it was important to keep the games in Middle Tennessee where the travel won’t be as extreme for teams located at opposite ends of the state,’’ McCadams said. “When we had the Spring Fling in Memphis a few years ago, that made travel pretty difficult for teams in cities like Johnson City.
“I have to say I was surprised (that Cookeville landed the games). I thought MTSU did an excellent job of hosting,’’ he said. “Obviously, Cookeville made an outstanding presentation to the TSSAA, and money was a factor.’’
Cookeville’s bid of $250,000 surpassed those of Chattanooga ($241,000) and Murfreesboro ($231,000).
Goodpasture’s David Martin, who has taken teams to the finals three straight years (2005-06-07) at MTSU and guided his Cougars to titles in ’99 and ’01, thinks the event should have remained in Murfreesboro.
“I was surprised, but obviously the money was one of the key factors,’’ Martin said, “I thought Murfreesboro did a nice job of hosting. As for travel, if we’re fortunate enough to get back, there’s very little difference for our school located in Madison in driving to Cookeville as to Murfreesboro. And the artificial turf is the same.’’
One coach who has mixed feelings about the move is Brentwood Academy’s Ralph Potter. His last three teams (McCallie, 2006 and BA, ’07 and ’08) have lost in the Division II finals at MTSU and might be content for a change of scenery.
“Murfreesboro has been a good host and it’s a top-notch facility,’’ Potter said, “It would be OK wherever they decide to have it. BA would be excited to play in a final regardless of where it is.
“A change is probably good. The Cookeville officials made a very enthusiastic presentation, they really wanted it. Our teams didn’t have much luck in the finals in Murfreesboro the last three years,’’ he said.
The last time Cookeville and Tech hosted a state championship football game was in 1974 when Father Ryan met Knoxville Fulton in the 3A finals at the neutral site. Ryan and star QB Mike Wright completed a perfect season with a 29-28 win over Fulton.
The BlueCross state finals this year are set for Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 3-5. The two Division II finals are Thursday, followed by the Division I finals the next two days.