Posted: 5:24 pm Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

FAU: No high school football games at FAU Stadium this year 

By Jeff Greer

The high school football tripleheader planned for Sept. 8 at FAU Stadium was never as close to happening as promoter Billy Fleming led Palm Beach County football fans to believe, an FAU administrator explained to area coaches and athletic directors in a Saturday e-mail obtained by the Post.

In his e-mail, FAU Assistant Athletics Director for Facilities and Operations Mitch Silverman said he’d only heard once from Fleming, saying there had been “no discussion of contract or financial considerations” between Fleming’s company and FAU.

Fleming said on Aug. 2 that his company, the Gridiron Challenge Foundation, was finalizing contract negotiations with Florida Atlantic for the university to host three high school football games on the second Saturday of the season after a “miscommunication” set back planning.

The preliminary proposal Fleming made, Silverman explained, was not financially feasible for FAU. Silverman asked Fleming to re-submit by Friday a new outline that would include covered expenses for the university. Fleming chose to remain with his original model, Silverman’s e-mail said, and the university decided to pass on the event.

“Mr. Fleming’s financial model shows that FAU would be responsible for 100 percent of the event expense,” Silverman explained in his e-mail. “These expenses total near ($25,000).”

Fleming’s history indicates the FAU flap is a relatively unusual occurrence. His company, Gridiron Challenge Foundation, has put on several events, including the Florida vs. USA Gridiron Challenge in Daytona Beach in 2010, which featured Glades Central and Glades Day against out-of-state opponents.

He responded to Silverman’s e-mail comments with a series of text messages late Tuesday night, saying he has “every e-mail and notes from every call” with FAU.

“We solicited the idea via e-mail to many at FAU, and (Silverman) responded via e-mail in addition to calling us,” Fleming’s text messages read. “We were very adamant about not having any stadium rental. Other expenses were OK and fully expected. (Silverman) first agreed but did a 180 when it came down to the final hour.

“I would have never proceeded forward in getting three games/six teams to agree to move their games to FAU without getting the go-ahead from (Silverman) and with the understanding of no stadium rental fee. Also, if (Silverman) had stated ($25,000) up front instead of ‘we’re not looking to make any money’ … ‘We would love the exposure for FAU’ … then we would have never moved forward to begin with!!!”

The six local schools hoping to play at FAU this fall return to their original schedules, with each set to play Friday night, Sept. 7. Palm Beach Gardens will travel to West Boca Raton, Spanish River will play at Boynton Beach and Palm Beach Central will host Lake Worth.

Palm Beach Central coach Rod Harris said he was disappointed the games wouldn’t go off as they’d hoped, but he also said FAU seemed sincere about hosting future regular-season high school games at its sterling new FAU Stadium, which opened last October.

“I will tell you that FAU will work to bring an event such as this to our stadium next season,” Silverman said the e-mail, “and hopefully will make that event an annual event where the students can play within a true (Division I) Football Stadium while FAU can brand its university and community.”