Clemson University officials made the rounds at a meeting of S.C. high school athletic directors on Tuesday, pitching a proposal that would bring state championship football games to the Tigers' Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2011.
The status of the state title games, and the expenses accrued by the S.C. High School League during the annual championship event at the University of South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium, have been key topics of discussion at the spring meeting of the S.C. Athletic Administrators Association in Charleston.
Clemson officials attended the meetings Tuesday, armed with ideas of how they could partner with USC to share in hosting title games in the future.
Thad Turnipseed, director of recruiting and external affairs at Clemson, and assistant football coach Kyle Richardson prepared a 20-minute presentation for each of the five SCHSL classifications, moving from meeting room to meeting room in their effort to convince administrators of the benefits of using both Clemson and South Carolina in championship weekends.
“This is not Clemson against South Carolina but rather Clemson and South Carolina coming together as partners to improve the state championship experience for our high schools,” Turnipseed said. “We can work together, and we have a plan that we will share with South Carolina in hopes we can move forward with this in the future. We need a starting point and we need to begin the conversation.”
Richardson, who was part of six state championship games while an assistant and head coach at Northwestern High in Rock Hill, says Clemson’s plan will be more cost effective and will allow schools a better experience while also making money.
“We can do it in both places at a lesser expense while improving the overall experience for the players, coaches and fans,” Richardson said. “Both schools have upgraded facilities and have the ability to really make this a better weekend for everyone.”
Clemson hosted championship games in 2008 at a cost of $76,000. Turnipseed feels that cost can be lowered to around $50,000, with sponsorship opportunities that would be tied in to both schools. The idea is to alternate playing sites from year to year with all five classifications involved.
The cost of playing games at USC has been a topic of discussion for several years. Expenditures by the high school league last year for the three state championship games (AAA, AAAA and AAAAA) played at Williams-Brice Stadium, which included one game on Friday and two on Saturday, totaled $95,899.99.
Of that total, roughly $7,500 were SCHSL expenses such as printing of tickets, statistics, game officials and passes.
The bulk of the expenses came in law enforcement, which totaled $45,261.24. That included $30,642.93 paid to the USC Department of Law Enforcement, $6,505.89 to the S.C. Highway Patrol, and other monies paid to several other area law enforcement agencies.
United Event Services was paid $17,772.06 for their services in game management.
The Class AA and A championship games are hosted by Benedict College in Columbia. In the agreement with Benedict, that school keeps concessions and parking monies but does not charge the league for use of their facilities.
“It should be noted that Clemson has not come in with a bid to host games,” High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said. “What they have presented is a concept, an idea where we would possibly utilize Clemson, as well as South Carolina. It’s just a concept right now. They have never said, ‘We want it and this is what we are offering.’
“Clemson has some ideas as to how some of the costs can be offset. Nothing is galvanized nor have they made any commitment to it, but they have some ideas how things can be offset. The people they sent are in marketing and there have been some good conversations.”
Singleton said the league’s executive committee makes the final decision on where games are played on a year-to-year basis. The committee does so after getting input from representatives of each classification.
“We (the league) are there to just kind of guide them,” Singleton said. “We are there to help them see the challenges and opportunities that may be present in various situations.”
Singleton said Clemson and USC can offer amenities that smaller college stadiums cannot, but added that seating capacity at smaller venues is not an issue. Attendance at the 2018 games was roughly 13,000 to 14,000.
“There are other stadiums that can handle the attendance but cannot match the other amenities that Clemson or South Carolina can offer,” Singleton said. “Case in point, both Clemson and USC have areas that can seat multiple people that don’t have to deal with the elements. But, if you remove that, there are several smaller colleges that can meet the seating capacity.”
Statements have been made recently by various administrators that participating state championship schools are losing money by playing in title games. Singleton disputes those comments.
“I have yet to know of a school that has lost money from participating in the (championship) event through the activities that occur around the event, such as travel, hotels or food,” Singleton said. “But, when you throw other elements in like championship rings, banquets and apparel and other things, I can see where that number may exceed what you would have received from the championship game.”
The league receives a cut of ticket sales from all championship events. So when participating schools “cut the league a check,” they are simply paying their portion of ticket sales back to the league, Singleton said.
“By selling tickets, they kept all of the monies from ticket sales. So what they cut back was the portion that comes to the league,” Singleton said. ‘It wasn’t that they had to pay the league to play in the championship game. They received funds. They just had to cut the league their portion back.”
In one of Clemson’s options, a major corporate sponsor would be involved and participating teams would be guaranteed $7,500 each. The plan would involve the use of hospitality suites in the west end zone at Clemson, and the use of the indoor practice facilities and outside practice fields at both schools.
Singleton said he has no preference as to where championship games are played as long as the main priority remains the athletes involved.
“What I am most interested in is for our student-athletes to have a great experience and a great opportunity. I want their health and welfare to be protected. Beyond that, whatever works is fine with me,” he said.
Expenses for three state championship games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2018:
Custodial - $4,500
Tickets - $2,825
Nurses - $420.00
Field Prep - $2,010
SC Probation and Parole – $2,910.90
USC Stadium Personnel - $6,250
USC Law Enforcement - $30,642.93
Bureau of Protective Services - $2,579.67
Columbia Police - $2,621.85
SC Highway Patrol - $6,505.89
United Event Services - $17,772.06
Lexington Co. Sheriff - $2,552.55
Announcer/Statistics - $450
Game Officials - $3,884
Press passes - $350
Dumpsters - $500
Video scoreboard, sound and phone tech – $1,088
USC employee meals - $1,416
Environmental Health and Safety - $2,156.95
Elevator techs - $3,270.50
USC parking services - $1,143.79
Total disbursement: $95,899.89