Written by Corbett Smith
Bond of sportsmanship: Plano ISD 'bends over backwards' to aid Allen
Allen appreciates Plano ISD’s willingness to share its stadiums
With Eagle Stadium closed for repairs, Allen’s path to a third straight state football title will be a tad more circuitous — with all of its 2014 season now on the road. But at least the travel won’t be torturous.
Nearby Plano ISD has stepped in to help its longtime district rival, opening the gates of its two stadiums for a few “home” dates for Allen, as well as showing flexibility with the schedules of its three senior high schools.
“It comes down to the kids,” Plano ISD athletic director Gerald Brence said Tuesday. “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we can accommodate them with. At the end of the day, we all need to be together. We’re all tough competitors with them, but we try to do this in the name of sportsmanship.”
Instead of six home games, including the season-opening Tom Landry Classic, Allen will play one game at Plano’s Clark Field and two at Murphy’s Kimbrough Stadium. The Tom Landry Classic matchup with Denton Guyer has moved to the University of North Texas’ Apogee Stadium, and home dates with Plano and Plano East have been pushed to the following season, rescheduled as road games. All but two of Allen’s 10 games will be played on Friday nights.
“Not playing at home is not an ideal situation, but we think it’s the best alternative for us,” Allen athletic director Steve Williams said.
Williams had been working on a contingency plan for months, understanding that a lengthy repair process might force the football team out of its stadium for the entire season. A final report on how to fix cracks in the concourse concrete is expected in the coming weeks, with a six- to eight-month timeline for repairs.
Apogee Stadium and the Cotton Bowl were appealing as alternative sites, but in each case the drive was too far, especially for students. SMU was dismissed as a possible venue early on, since its football team does home walk-throughs on Friday evenings and there were additional questions about locker room space.
Allen’s old stadium, which last served as the high school venue in 2011, was also deemed unacceptable, with deficiencies in seating, parking, restrooms and the public address system.
Additionally, Williams said he and his staff didn’t want any problems trying to accommodate season-ticket holders in the old stadium. There aren’t enough seats there — even with 7,000 additional ones from temporary bleachers — to meet the demand from season-ticket holders.
“It wasn’t a good situation for us,” Williams said.
Instead, Williams and his staff focused on Plano. Allen will pay $5,300 in rent for each of the three “home” games, with Plano keeping the concession revenue. Tickets will be general admission.
“They bent over backwards to make this work for us,” Williams said. “We don’t have anything but respect with the way they helped us out in a bad situation.”
The Tom Landry Classic, a season-opening doubleheader that moved to Eagle Stadium in 2013, also had to be rescheduled. The other game in this year’s showcase — Highland Park vs. Frisco Centennial — will be played at SMU’s Ford Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Kris Cumnock, executive director of the Tom Landry Classic, said he expects the games to move back to Eagle Stadium in 2015.
On Tuesday afternoon, Allen football coach Tom Westerberg talked with his players about the scheduling upheaval.
“I told them about not worrying about things you can’t control,” Westerberg said. “People like Arlington Martin get on a bus and drive every Friday night to a game because they don’t have a stadium on their campus. We’re in the same boat as all those guys are across the metroplex.”
Williams said that he was most disappointed for Allen’s seniors, who won’t get the typical Senior Night or Homecoming.
At least one of those seniors-to-be, Allen offensive lineman Cody Wheeler, didn’t seem too troubled.
“We’re gonna ball regardless,” Wheeler tweeted.
Matt Wixon contributed to this report.