Leading off today:
The decision by Bishop Timon-St. Jude officials to cancel a scheduled game in Texas has indirectly offered a glimpse into aspects of big-time high school football, courtesy of a California newspaper.
And some of it ain't good.
A story last week by the Lompoc (Calif.) Record documented a local coach's unsuccessful effort to fill the opening on Odessa Permian's schedule created when Timon canceled out of what would have been its second annual trip to Texas this September.
Along the way it became a crash course in dollars and cents and a cautionary tale about doing business with people not directly associated with school districts and their athletic departments.
First, some quick background:
As we've chronicled, Bishop Timon was thrown into chaos this month. The administration's decision to not retain the school principal led to the resignation of AD and football coach Charlie Comerford. A year ago, Comerford beefed up the Timon schedule by booking games in Ohio and Georgia as well as vs. Odessa (Texas) Permian, the school made famous in the book-turned-movie-turned-TV series "Friday Night Lights."
With the football program coming apart at the seams minus Comerford, Timon canceled its out-of-state games for 2017. That left Permian officials uncertain about whether they would fill the hole in their schedule, and that's where the California newspaper picked up the story.
Lompoc High coach Andrew Jones says a promoter named Brian Hercules, who has been the matchmaker for other schools' interstate games in the past, contacted him with the chance to take on the storied Texas team. Lompoc already had a game scheduled for the fourth weekend in September, but the opportunity to play in 19,300-seat Ratliff Stadium (photo here) against that particular team was intriguing. So he went down the path of both planning to fly his team to the game and finding a replacement opponent for Righetti High, Lompoc's previously scheduled opponent for Sept. 22.
By the coach's calculations, Lompoc's athletic department and boosters would need about $18,000 to fly 50 players into Dallas, put them up in a hotel and pay for meals, and Hercules said he would need a $500 service fee. Hercules told Jones that Permian would write his school a $10,000 check for its troubles.
The proposed deal fell apart once Jones, nervous about the lack of a contract, started digging deeper this month to make sure he knew what Lompoc was getting itself into.
"Brian Hercules owns this sports management program that does out-of-state games," Jones told the newspaper. "His reputation, after doing a lot of research, is that he's done some good games and he's done things where there are some bad articles about him in the press."
One of those articles reported that a Daytona Beach, Fla., school found itself on the wrong end of a $15,000 tab for a 2015 game in Ohio and that multiple other schools reported bad experiences with Hercules, formerly a high school AD in Bellevue, Wash.
Despite the concerns, Jones was still considering going forward with plans until one final phone call with Hercules that was supposed to confirm the contracts were ready to be signed.
"He goes, 'Hey, everything is set except for the location of the game and the opponent,'" Jones said. "So, I'm like, 'What? Are you kidding me?'"
Jones said Hercules then indicated Permian had opted to keep its bye on Sept. 22 but Lompoc could instead travel to play Buford, the Georgia school that Timon had also dropped from the schedule.
"That deal in Atlanta would be about $12,000 or $15,000 out of our pocket," Jones said. "That was not part of the deal. I feel like a complete moron after I didn't do my due diligence and ask around about this guy."
Enough was enough, and Jones did what he should have done on Day 1 -- get on the phone with Permian coach Blake Feldt. He said Feldt told him Lompoc was suggested to Permian but that nothing even remotely close to a deal had been worked out.