By JIMMY BURCH
For two-consecutive September Saturdays, as well as the days in-between, college football telecasts resonated a little louder than normal with Ryan Allen Hall.
Whether on pregame shows or during the announcers’ calls during games, the Director of Community Relations for the College Football Playoff (CFP) kept hearing references to a topic near and dear to his heart: the CFP Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Week.
Throughout the country, at venues ranging from Times Square to the Los Angeles Coliseum, entities within the college football community honored teachers in conjunction with games played between Sept. 16-23. They shined the spotlight on an initiative that has contributed $12 million to education while making an impact on 3,033,144 students and 97,407 teachers in 12,902 schools since it was launched in 2014.
“I think Extra Yard for Teachers Week has evolved into a truly remarkable campaign over the last three years,” Hall said. “We’ve received great buy-in from our institutions, conferences, bowls and media partners. This is why you might have noticed the exponential growth in the last year, especially with football student-athletes wearing the green apple helmet decal. We’ve taken major strides to increase the financial and emotional impact of this initiative, and we are grateful for the coaches and student-athletes for their support.”
Having teachers recognized during ESPN College GameDay telecasts from Louisville (Sept. 16) and Times Square (Sept. 23) helped. The spotlight on former Louisville student-athletes now in the teaching profession accompanied an announcement that the CFP Foundation, in partnership with ESPN, would provide $30,000 in support of DonersChoose.org classroom projects at Louisville-area schools (grades K-12), benefitting more than 3,000 students and 25 teachers in the process. In New York City, the CFP Foundation and ESPN announced another $30,000 initiative in support of high-need classrooms in the region.
Fans also got involved with funding projects. At the end of the eight-day campaign, the DonorsChoose.org site referenced 229 fully-funded classroom projects benefitting 13,395 students through the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative, accompanied by thank-you notes from grateful instructors.
Feel-good angles dominated the storylines during telecasts on ESPN and other networks. A Sept. 22 celebration of teachers topped 1,200 participants at Boise State. Officials at the University of California presented an $11,000 check to Acorn Woodland Elementary School in Oakland during the Golden Bears’ game against Ole Miss. The funds will go towards helping the elementary school recover after it was vandalized in July, with computers destroyed and classrooms spray-painted with graffiti as part of damages in excess of $20,000.
Grants raised will enhance efforts to help teachers in communities connected to the 10 FBS conferences and their member schools, from sensory swings for special needs elementary students to the purchase of audiobooks for Sandtown Middle School in Atlanta
Extra Yard for Teachers Week included a myriad supportive messages in stadiums and on social media from schools, athletes, fans, bowls and conferences. A prime example: a 30-second video posted by the Big 12 that featured testimonials from nine different student-athletes to underscore the support for the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative espoused by Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby.
“It’s actually one of the things that I enjoy most about being involved in the College Football Playoff,” Bowlsby said. “We are putting enough resources against it that it’s making a difference. We are trying to encourage more people into the teaching profession. Government estimates are that we are going to need another 200,000 teachers by 2022. Right now, colleges are not training enough teachers. That’s a challenge for our entire country. If we can’t have quality instructors in the classroom, it’s going to affect the quality of education.”
Impact for the initiative will extend beyond its eight-day focal point. The Southeastern Conference, for example, will feature a student-athlete/teacher story from each of its 14 schools on a weekly basis throughout the regular season via SEC Network programming, with a $10,000 grant provided for each teacher highlighted in the testimonials.
Bowlsby envisions 2017-18 as a year to elevate the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative to unprecedented levels, topping last year’s $5.7 million impact.
“We hope we’re getting better at it with each passing year,” Bowlsby said. “We’d like it to be a much bigger initiative with a much larger impact as we go forward.”