Aug. 3, 2012
A common thread connected the remarks of the speakers at Friday's Highland Hundred Tiger Football Kick-Off Banquet. With the University of Memphis football team set to begin practices on Monday, the word `excitement' was used on multiple occasions.
First-year head coach Justin Fuente spoke of the foundation being forged for the program, relating it to the Highland Hundred's membership and its base of support for Tiger football. And ahead of the Tigers' season opener against UT Martin on Sept. 1, the new coach challenged the full house of Tiger supporters at the event.
"I am going to challenge you to bring someone else to the game on September 1st," Fuente said. "I am going to challenge you to introduce somebody else to Tiger athletics. Maybe they used to be a fan and they haven't been recently. Maybe they have never been a fan. Maybe they went to another school, I don't care. If they live around here and they are friends with you, then they need to be friends with me."
Fuente went on to say he wanted members of the audience to take the challenge seriously and work to expand the group and the strength of its support. He encouraged them to dream the `unimaginable.'
With over 1,000 members, the Highland Hundred represents the entire cross-section of fans both locally and across the nation. The organization's major projects have included renovations of the Murphy Athletics Complex, funding lights and video towers for the complex and purchasing a Lexicon Video Sports Editing System for the program.
One of the organization's most visible symbols is TOM III, the Bengal tiger mascot whose financial needs are covered by a combination of support from the Highland Hundred general fund and other private sources.
Also speaking at Friday night's banquet was University of Memphis President Dr. Shirley Raines and Director of Athletics Tom Bowen as well as current Highland Hundred President Charlie Smithers.
Smithers spoke of the organization's fund raising efforts as well as the group's over 50 years of support to the team. He said the most important thing the membership does is `being there' for the team and he also spoke of building on its current foundation.
"Being there means bringing friends to a game who may have never been to a Tiger game before," he said. "It means bringing in new members to help support the club and the football program. It means being there when talking amongst your friends with excitement and passion about Tiger football. It means coming to games and rooting the young men on in good seasons, bad seasons, good weather and bad weather."
Fans can learn more about the Highland Hundred and join the organization by clicking to its web site, www.highlandhundred.org.
For Fuente, Friday's kickoff banquet was his last speaking engagement before donning a whistle for Monday's first practice.
The Tigers will report to campus on Sunday and the team's first meeting will include a segment in which the 105 reporting players will learn the University of Memphis fight song.
Tickets for the Tigers' season opener Sept. 1 against UT Martin are available for purchase at www.GoTigersGo.com or by calling the Tigers Ticket Office at (901) 678-2331.