However, regardless of team affiliation, all 450-plus attendees of the event at the Clarence Brown Conference Center were treated to expert analysis of the upcoming college football season.
Speakers at the events included Tony Barnhart, known as “Mr. College Football” and author of “Southern Fried Football.” Barnhart was a college football analyst with CBS for four seasons and is now switching to the new SEC TV network. FOX Sports South sportscaster Wes Durham also spoke at the event. He does radio play-by-play for the Atlanta Falcons. The voice of Georgia football Scott Howard was the third expert who spoke at the event.
“We have an enthusiastic crowd. They seem to be having a good time,” Hershel Wisebram, who founded the event, said. “I really want to thank Wes Durham, Tony Barnhart and Scott Howard. They’re the ones that bring the people. They’re the ones that do the entertaining. When you go to the presentation of the scholarships, the first Thursday every June, and you see those kids get an education and get a better opportunity to go to college, it’s worth it.”
Wisebram said the event raised more than $50,000 last year and the proceeds go to scholarships for students from Bartow County.
“It’s a really good cause and it brings a lot of excitement for college football,” Howard, who has attended each of the last four years, said. “It helps out a lot of kids and gives them a chance to go on to college. Every year I get a really nice letter from a recipient of a $1,000 scholarship. They write, tell me a little bit about themselves, where they’re going to school, what they’re going to study. It’s a nice feeling to be able to help in a little way.”
The event also raises money by auctioning off items such as paintings, gift certificates and autographs. Featured sports items this year included a signed football by Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn and another by Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
There also were autographed baseballs, one signed by the 1986 Braves and another by the 2001 Braves. New Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl also signed a basketball for the auction.
However, the most sought after items of the night were: a football signed by former Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley and former Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, and an autographed baseball by Braves great Hank Aaron.
“I think we have the best items we’ve ever had and some that we may never be able to get again,” Wisebram said. “Herschel Walker has agreed to personalize the signature and that adds to the value of it as far as the auction is concerned. And we’re fortunate enough to have Hank Aaron.
“There won’t be many more of those because Hank is getting about 80 years old now. But to have those legends, it really is an honor that they’re supporting our cause.”
Among the topics that were discussed were SEC and ACC football, in addition to a breakdown of the new four-team playoff system. The Atlanta Falcons also were discussed and the floor was opened to questions form the attendees.
“It’s fun. Everyone’s excited this time of the year. You’d rather talk to someone when their team’s undefeated rather than if they’ve lost a couple of games,” Durham, who has spoken all six years, said. “Coach Dooley one time said, ‘Everybody loves college football in August because they haven’t played yet.”
Durham, Barnhart and Howard all said they enjoy their trip to Cartersville.
“My wife is from here. My in-laws still live here. This is kind of like my second hometown,” Durham said. “We’ve got some great friends here. It’s really nice. In a small way, I hope to give back in one way or another.”
“The folks here are incredibly nice. It’s different schools. Everybody is well represented. They want to know how their team is going to do and it’s just a fun place to come. I love the folks in Cartersville,” Barnhart said. “It’s for a good cause. The scholarships are very important to this community and to be able to give back is very important to me.”