By Kris Freeman for The White House Tribune
WHITE HOUSE — The annual Robert H. Covington Steak Supper and Auction is the largest fundraiser for the White House Quarterback Club, but this year participants will be standing on a surface that the auction proceeds plan to replace.
Scheduled for Saturday, May 11, the auction at 7 p.m. will be held in The Burr Building at White House High School. Housing the weight room and adjacent to the locker room, the building contains 50 yards of green artificial turf, originally obtained from an arena league football franchise in Wisconsin. The auction items and participant tables will be one of the last events on that surface before it is removed and updated when 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the project.
White House Football plans to install 50 yards of synthetic field turf, complete with one set of hashes, three yard markers, sideline stripes and workout lines/ladders. The most intriguing part, however, is the color. Following the lead of the playing surface at Boise State University in Idaho, the turf will be “White House” blue. Boise State is the only blue playing surface in college football, although four other schools in the collegiate ranks have alternate colors other than green.
This will not affect the actual game location, as the Blue Devils play home games at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium in White House City Park, owned by the City of White House.
“Our goal is to replace the turf and the steak supper is the main fundraising opportunity for that,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. “The current turf is 13 years old and it was used when we got it. It can become a safety factor for us. It has served its purpose and it’s time for us to replace it. The turf is used every single day by either the football program or the school and there are strength and conditioning classes every block of every day.”
Tickets for the steak supper and auction are $40 for two people, including dinner. Food is served from 4-7 p.m., then the auction begins and often lasts well past midnight with hundreds of items up for bid from large furniture and garden machinery to landscaping, travel packages and sports memorabilia. A food ticket is not required for the auction.
The goal for the night is $40,000 with the proceeds going straight to the turf project. White House football facilities are built and furnished by private funds raised by the White House Quarterback Club.
“The football buildings were put together in three phases,” Porter said. “The Robert Covington weight room was built in 1984; the J.R. Redferrin fieldhouse in 1987; The Burr (Howeth) Building phase one was 1992, phase two in 1995 and then phase three in 2000 when an additional 20 feet was added to the building and the two buildings were tied together. That included new coaching offices, kitchen, meeting room, equipment room and installation of turf.
“Everything that has every been done at this school has been paid for by the Quarterback Club with the exception of a one-time donation of approximately $16,000 from the school board in the early 2000s.”
The Blue Devils are among the top programs in the state of Tennessee, competing in Class 4-A. White House has made 21 straight trips to the TSSAA playoffs and 28-of-29 years overall. In 26 seasons as the head coach, Coach Porter is 230-96 and the program has 420 wins all-time since 1943.
This history, combined with a loyal community fan base on the western edge of Sumner County, has made for a stable fundraising success in supplying needs for the kids without using tax funds of Sumner County Schools. Originally, White House High School had students from Sumner and Robertson County until the opening of White House Heritage High School divided the county line and separated students approximately 10 years ago. Next year, the two teams will be in the same district for the first time.
“The White House Quarterback Club has provided over a half-million dollars in facilities, and the majority of that comes from the steak supper,” Porter said thankfully. “I think it would be hard to be in existence without the support and backing of the Quarterback Club because the gate at the games are not what they used to be with our town supporting two high schools, and ticket gates don’t produce the revenue they once did. The Quarterback Club is the key to us running a first-class program and we could not do it without them.”
A meeting with the Quarterback Club, football program and parents on Tuesday allowed supporters to see the projected contractors who may be selected to install the turf, and finalize plans to start prepping for May’s event.
The surface is the same synthetic field turf style as the New Orleans Superdome, used in February’s Super Bowl for the National Football League.