The West Forsyth football team hit the road Aug. 30 for its drive to southern Iredell County to play its first away game of the season.
The Titans defeated the Mooresville Blue Devils 49-7 that night. But Coach Adrian Snow noticed the atmosphere was not the same for a typical Titans road game.
According to Snow, whose team is 3-0 ahead of tonight’s nonconference game against High Point Central, fewer West Forsyth fans were in the stands at Coach Joe Popp Stadium than what the team normally saw at road games.
College football kicked off in Forsyth County that night. Wake Forest played host to Utah State — a last-minute 38-35 win for the Deacons — in the season opener at BB&T Field.
And Snow saw a correlation.
“West Forsyth, we travel really well. We really do,” Snow said. “... But when we went to Mooresville, our attendance — there’s no doubt we did not travel. Because (Wake Forest) had a home football game that night.”
A night held sacred for high school football will be encroached upon yet again tonight. Wake Forest faces North Carolina — two undefeated ACC teams playing for the first time since 2015, resuming a 131-year-old rivalry.
The game, which will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on ESPN, has captured plenty of attention this week.
It’s a concern for Snow and other high school coaches and athletics directors in the area. High school football has held a claim to Friday nights with a nearly multi-generational understanding. And, naturally, a college game — especially one with amount of the regional significance as Wake Forest vs. North Carolina — will encroach upon that.
The growing trend in Friday night college matchups, mostly driven by TV networks, could slash funding desperately needed by high schools to fund all sports. And football is a primary revenue-generator.
“I mean, it’s a big circle — financially,” Snow said. “Every bit of money we have, for the most part, the revenue comes from football gates.”
The money generated from games is vital to the life of every sport — not just football — according to Joe McCormick, the athletics director at Glenn.
McCormick said the yearly cost for the Bobcats to recondition helmets and pads alone is roughly $9,000. That doesn’t include equipment no longer suitable for use, leading football teams to replace it with new versions.
McCormick said the money from football goes toward the purchase of items used by other programs. For example, McCormick said part of the money generated by Glenn’s football team was used to purchase helmets, which cost roughly $200 per helmet, for the varsity lacrosse team. The school owns 30 lacrosse helmets, and they age out after a few seasons.
Money from football is also used to buy balls for JV and varsity sports, which costs hundreds of dollars over the course of a season, McCormick said.
“Football costs a lot to fund to begin with, and then you’re trying to recoup that money,” McCormick said. “And then, on top of that, you’re trying to pay for other sports.”
Wake Forest and UNC were originally slated to play Thursday night. A slot on ESPN was available, and a battle set in the Tarheel State was moved back a day. The change was announced in May.
The Deacons also moved up last week’s game against Rice, which was scheduled for Saturday, to “accommodate Conference USA’s television package,” according to a Wake Forest news release in April. The Deacons won the game 41-21.
A nationally televised game such as Wake Forest vs. North Carolina is likely an ideal draw for college prospects.
Coach Tiesuan Brown of Mount Tabor, whose Spartans face nonconference rival Reynolds tonight at Deaton-Thompson Stadium, said Friday night college games make it impossible for players to visit Division I programs and attend a game.
Last week, Jamarien Dalton, a junior wide receiver at North Davidson, posted a photo on Twitter while attending Duke’s win over N.C. A&T. Junior Micah Crowell, a standout wide receiver at East Forsyth, attended North Carolina’s electrifying 28-25 victory against Miami.
“We had a couple guys that wanted to go to that Wake-Carolina game that, we feel like, have a chance to play at that level,” Brown said.
Along with the effects on recruiting, attendance and the finances of high school athletic programs, high school football is a way for people in a community to come together.
According to Coach David Diamont of South Stokes, who is going on 38 years of coaching between East Surry, Mount Airy and South Stokes, playing college football games on Friday nights is a threat to high school sports participation in rural areas.
“If you think about all the games across the state — once it starts, they’re going to continue to take the TV money,” Diamont said. “This is just the beginning.”