Coaches Show to resume long standing tradition Tuesday night

Sean Parker of ESPN 104.9 presents a commemorative Player of the Week T-shirt to then Choctaw County High QB Jamarcus Ezell during last season's Coaches Show.

Sean Parker of ESPN 104.9 presents a commemorative Player of the Week T-shirt to then Choctaw County High QB Jamarcus Ezell during last season’s Coaches Show.

Heading into his eighth season as host of the Coaches Show for west Alabama high school football, Rob Pearson is still finding joy in carrying on the radio tradition that meant so much to he and his peers as young athletes.

“I first became a water boy for Demopolis Academy in 1979 when my brother, Eddie, was a sophomore on the team and I was a second grader.  Back then, Van Kelley and David Rivers did a radio show on WXAL every Saturday morning following Friday night football games that they called ‘Coaches’ Corner’, live from (if I remember right) Lloyd Jones Chevrolet, where Fire Station No. 2 is now,” Pearson recalled. “The cool thing about it was that the coaches and players would go hang out at the dealership those mornings to talk about last night’s game, and hear the coaches discuss the game on the radio. For some of those, Eddie would take me with him to the dealership. Inevitably, someone (probably Mr. Rivers) decided it would be a good idea to interview the water boy on the radio. From then on, I became a more regular participant than they probably wanted.”

In later years, the show shifted to McDonald’s with the same format.

“Coaches would come to drink coffee and talk about the previous game on the radio.  As usual, the best stories from the coaches were the ones that didn’t make on the air, so just being there to listen was fun,” Pearson said. “But sometime around 15 years ago, the show ended, likely because Saturday mornings became more and more difficult for coaches to participate due to film and other obligations.”

As Coaches Corner fizzled out and Demopolis Academy closed its doors for the final time, Pearson suddenly found his autumn evenings to have a significant high school football void.

“After graduating from DA, I remained involved with the broadcast of their games until the school closed,” Pearson said. “The season after they closed, I found myself, for the first time in 25 years, not involved in high school football in some way, so I began trying to find a way to get back involved. Then-WINL owner Amy Ward would let me call a few games for her here and there, but nothing regular.”

Rob Pearson will begin his eighth season as host of the Coaches Show Tuesday night.

Rob Pearson will begin his eighth season as host of the Coaches Show Tuesday night.

In the summer of 2007, Pearson and then WINL sales manager Sean Parker got together on the idea of trying to resurrect a version of the defunct Coaches Corner. Ward green-lighted the idea on a one-year trial basis and the pair enlisted the help of Jason Windham and Batter Up Sports Grill to play host to the weekly event.

With Saturday mornings not an option for the new Coaches Show team, Tuesday evenings became the logical fit. Since then, the show shifted to ESPN 104.9 as Parker changed radio stations.

“Sean asked me and Jason to move the show with him over to his new station, and we agreed,” Pearson said. “He has expanded his lineup from just our show to now having a show dedicated to Mississippi high school coaches from a location in Meridian and the UWA Coaches Show at Austin’s Steakhouse in Livingston. The show and their spinoffs seem to be a great fit for his sports-talk radio format.”

As the show readies to open its eighth season Tuesday night at Batter Up Sports Grill, Pearson credits the simplicity of the format and the willingness of the coaches with its success.

“The concept was simple: give the area coaches a medium to tell their own team’s stories, highlight the often ‘unsung’ players, give some coach speak about the opponent, fire up the fans. Whatever message the coach wanted to send, we tried to get them started and get out of their way.  Actually, our show’s concept is still that way.  It’s the COACHES’ Show, after all,” Pearson said. “We wouldn’t have a show if it weren’t for the coaches. I can guarantee that the talent of the hosts alone was not enough to carry 10 minutes of air-time. Fortunately, I have been constantly overwhelmed by the cooperation and support we’ve gotten from the coaches. We offered it as a medium for the coaches and they’ve embraced it. It’s not easy on these guys for a variety of reasons; whether it’s because Tuesday is their “long” practice day, other shows calling, an occasional JV game, family obligations, etc., but they have been extremely gracious. I know I appreciate that, and people tell me they enjoy listening to them also.”

Pearson also made note of the success local coaches are currently having in west Alabama, from the AISA’s winningest coach in Robby James at Marengo Academy to state championship winners Tom Causey at Demopolis and Jack Hankins at Thomasville. Those coupled with rising young coaches like Linden’s Andro Williams and Sweet Water’s Pat Thompson give local high school football fans and the Coaches Show itself an embarrassment of riches and resources.

The Coaches Show has added features over the years, employing a Player of the Week segment for the first time two years ago and adding a Signing Day Special each February that has run for some five seasons now.

The Coaches Show has given high school football standouts and local coaches the opportunity to address their respective fan bases and communities for the last seven seasons.

The Coaches Show has given high school football standouts and local coaches the opportunity to address their respective fan bases and communities for the last seven seasons.

But 2013 saw the rise of added involvement on the part of Windham, who dipped into his proverbial pocketbook to help local schools and teams.

“Last year, Jason decided to donate a portion of his sales each Tuesday night of the show to an area support organization.  Each week, I watched Jason write a check to groups like the Marengo Academy boosters, UWA, DHS Band Boosters, Linden High boosters, etc.  Let me tell you, when you write that check every week for 15 weeks, the total amount donated adds up in a hurry,” Pearson said. “The listeners have responded and the support for it has been amazing.  Our first show on Tuesday will be to benefit the DHS Quarterback Club, and I know there will be a line out the door, again. I think people have appreciated what he’s doing. I know I have.”

The eighth season of the Coaches Show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Batter Up Sports Grill on U.S. Highway 80 in Demopolis. A portion of all proceeds from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. will go to benefit the Demopolis High School Quarterback Club. The show will settle into its usual time slot next Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“This Tuesday will be our 114th show and, as usual, I expect it to be better than our 113th,” Pearson said.