This year, all three European grid title games will be played at one site, on same day
September 11, 2003
Get ready for Super Saturday.
The 2003 high school football season kicks off this Saturday all over Europe — from Menwith Hill, England, in the north to Rota, Spain, in the southwest to Sigonella, Sicily, in the southeast and at 11 other sites in between.
When the school system’s three championship games arrive on Nov. 1, all roads will lead to Baumholder, where a sizeable chunk of Stateside-style football fever is on the agenda for the first time in the 50-plus-year history of American high school football in Europe.
Super Saturday will bring the championship games in DODDS-Europe Divisions I, II and III to Baumholder’s Minnick Field.
Super Saturday, also called the Super Six, is the brainchild of Ansbach coach Marcus George, who spent more than a year selling his idea for a one-site-fits-all, season-ending football fest to school-system authorities. His plan replaces, for this year, at least, the traditional system of having each championship game played on the home field of the surviving team with the best record — three games at three sites.
Whether the Super Six will last is up in the air. DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore emphasized that the program has been approved as a one-year pilot plan only.
“After the championship,” Seadore wrote in an e-mail, “we will review the format and expenses and then determine if we should continue with a Super Six.”
Seadore added that the concept of the Super Six dovetails with the rest of the sports program. It’s primarily the numbers involved in football that are problematic.
“Considering the fact that we provide an outstanding venue in volleyball, basketball and soccer for our athletes by bringing many teams to one site, we should be doing the same for football,” she wrote. “The Super Six will provide our championship football teams with a similar experience.”
George, who won three European titles at Fulda in the 1980s before that school shut down, another at Hohenfels in that school’s second year of existence in 1996 and a fifth crown last season at Ansbach, worked in Alabama as a school administrator from 1998-2001. It was there he got the idea of bringing that state’s tradition of playing all six of its championship games the same weekend at one site to Europe.
“When I came back to DODDS [in the fall of 2001],” George said, “it struck me how scattered we are. I could only see one championship game, and sometimes at an isolated site, there’d only be 100 people at the game.”
The situation was a far cry from the season-ending festivities at Legion Field in Birmingham.
“There were tens of thousands of people there for the weekend,” George said. “They played championship games in three classes on Friday and three on Saturday. There was a lot of pageantry and fun, and coaches from all over the state got together to exchange ideas. I thought that’s something we ought to try over here.”
Reaction to the plan from George’s coaching colleagues has been uniformly enthusiastic.
“Hey I think it’s a great idea, it takes away the homefield advantage which shouldn’t exist in a championship game anyway,” said Würzburg coach Eric Mead, whose team has won the Division I championship the past three years. “It resembles our track and field and wrestling championships, and puts football in the same position as those events.”
SHAPE’s Kregg Kappenman also backed Super Six.
“Very happy to see the ‘Super Six’ vision become a reality,” Kappenman wrote in an e-mail. “I think all teams and players will benefit whether they are to play or watch. More exposure for our players will be possible to the college scouts.”
George’s vision, which embraces pep bands, cheerleaders and even a possible “Power Party” put on by the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe, also includes back-up plans in case the normally wet November field proves unplayable after two straight games.
“The field should be in good shape,” George said. “With all the deployments, there won’t be much traffic on the field during the season, and [Baumholder principal] Dom Calabria and the Baumholder community are fired up to make a concerted effort to have the field in top shape. If it’s a really wet field, we can probably ask Kaiserslautern to be a possible site for the night game.”
George and Seadore foresee noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. kickoffs on Super Saturday, with the Division III game opening things up, followed by Division II and then Division I. By the time the big schools are through, even the most fervent of fans should be satisfied.
Assuming, that is, their seat cushions don’t fail them.