E.A. Sports Today

No football talk in Oxford

Declining attendance has led officials to suspend operations of the Oxford Quarterback Club in its 45th year; they hope to revive it in 2018

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — For the first time in 45 years, the civically sports-minded people of Oxford won’t be gathering in their favorite place to relive memories of games past, swap tall tales of their favorite games and talk up the most recent exploits of the local high school football team.

For the first time in 45 years, the Oxford Quarterback Club is closed.

Declining attendance and a general apathy of such things have prompted club officials to call a time out for 2017. They hope to revive the club next year, but for now there will be no football talk on Monday nights in Oxford.

“Our membership dropped substantially over the past five years and we decided to sit out this year and try to come back next year,” longtime program chairman Mike Shaddix said. “Hopefully we can create more interest and resurrect the club next year.”

The club, one of two such booster organizations in Calhoun County, had met continuously every Monday of the football season since its first meeting the Monday after Labor Day 1972. Its first meeting of 2017 was supposed to be Monday at the Oxford Civic Center.

At its height, the club had between 100 and 110 members with about 100 consistently attending the weekly meetings. Last year it had fewer than 25 members and only about 15 would attend the meetings.

“(The decline) probably started two or three years ago,” Shaddix said. “We thought we could resurrect interest in the club, that we could get members, but for some reason there seems to be the same kind of apathy throughout clubs of this nature, whether it be Rotary, Civitan, Kiwanis; nationwide people are not as interested in those things as they used to be.

“We thought we were different. We had good attendance, but then it started dropping big time. It’s a shame because it’s been a part of Oxford for many, many years. Oxford has always supported Oxford athletics and it just seemed as far as the club goes it waned.”

The club used to meet at the Western Sizzlin’ restaurant across the highway from Lamar Field, but a few years ago it switched to Hubbard’s Off Main and then Oxford Civic Center with a catered meal in an effort to reduce overhead.

Many of the attendees came to hear the night’s guest speaker. Club officials prided themselves on the diverse roster of speakers they attracted over the years, a list that included SEC, ACC and NFL head coaches, former players and broadcasters.

The club’s mission, though, was to foster support and raise money for the Oxford High School athletics programs and other community sports projects. Shaddix said the club was giving on average $10,000 a year to the high school for various programs. It also provides annual $1,000 scholarships for a senior boy and girl from the school.

Yellow Jackets football coach Ryan Herring had no comment about the club shutting down when asked about it Friday night following his team’s 21-0 victory over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, which no doubt would have been a hot topic at the club’s first meeting.

The club will continue to honor the scholarship, Shaddix said, and if it never met again has the ability to fund the grants for the next 10 years. Of course, they would like to have a program to go with it.

“We’re playing it by ear,” Shaddix said. “I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance (of it coming back) and that’s going to depend on how much interest we can create.”

The suspension in Oxford leaves the Calhoun County Quarterback Club as the only such booster group in the county. It meets on Mondays at Anniston Country Club. Its first meeting is Sept. 11. Terry Wilson is the 2017 captain.

Here is the Calhoun County Quarterback Club speaker lineup:

Sept. 11 — Jacksonville State coach John Grass
Sept. 18 — Recruiting analyst Andrew Bone
Sept. 25 — Former Alabama receiver Lamonde Russell
Oct. 2 — Jacksonville State broadcaster Mike Parris
Oct. 9 — Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville
Oct. 16 — Former Alabama and Green Bay Packers player Rich Wingo
Oct. 23 — Local broadcaster Mike Raita
Oct. 20 — Former Alabama player John Croyle
Nov. 13 — Raffle Scholarship Dinner

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