The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) said goodbye to Legion Field Wednesday with an announcement the state high school football championships would be moved to Tuscaloosa and Auburn on a rotating basis.
It was a long time coming. Legion Field has been in disrepair for far too long. The environment around the stadium was devoid of hotels, entertainment or dining establishments. The biggest contrast to a fun gameday experience and the Legion Field experience could be felt when a hurricane forced the movement of some games from Legion Field to the Hoover Met in 2004.
Hoover provided everything Legion Field couldnâ€™t. It had parking. It had a safe environment with lots for fans to do. The restaurants were good too.
Legion Field was a magical place to hold the high school championship, but the magic got weaker every year as the stadium rusted and memories faded.
Birmingham lost the Super Six because it never adequately dealt with its Legion Field problem. When the Hoover Met is a better venue than the Birmingham venue, you know youâ€™ve got a problem. However, Birmingham drifted along without a plan and without leadership.
Birminghamâ€™s failure is the stateâ€™s loss. Birmingham is centrally located and the perfect location to crown state champions. Other cities like Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Auburn are not commuter friendly to the majority of people within the state. While the decision makes sense due to Legion Field, the AHSAA pursued its own agenda at the expense of loyalty to Birminghamâ€”the place which made the Super Six what it is today.
Loyalty doesnâ€™t matter much in the realm of athletics these days. Something else does. Guess.
â€œI want to thank the City of Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation, the Cities of Auburn and Opelika and the Auburn/Opelika Tourism Bureau, and the City of Birmingham and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as both the University of Alabama and Auburn University for their diligent efforts during this process,â€ Moe Smith, president of the AHSAA Central Board, said in a release from the AHSAA. â€œI also want to thank Birmingham for its role in making the Super 6 and Final 48 events what they are today.Â As we move forward, we see this new arrangement with each city as one that will take our championships to new heights.â€
New Heights. That is code for more money. Money seems to be a big priority for high school programs around the country, and Alabama is no exception. Every source of revenue is being squeezed in the form of television, radio and photographic rights. The move from Birmingham shows the AHSAA values loyalty less than money.
High school sports seems more like college sports everyday. Colleges like Alabama will sue famous alumni artists like Daniel Moore for no reason other than mammon. How long until high schools do the same thing?