It is one of the most memorable traditions in sports—honorary captains participating in the coin toss before the start of a championship football game. Presidents, heroes, hall of famers and celebrities are typically given the distinction. In Alabama, we take it to a higher level.
Coin Toss Connects
“The coin toss connects us.”Sims Garrison, 2020 Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club Captain
The annual Super 7 coin toss symbolizes the enduring partnership between the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, high school football and children’s health charities.
Since it was organized in 1939, the Monday Morning Quarterback Club has raised more than $30 million dollars (not adjusted for inflation!) for children’s health.
“We wanted to show with the coin toss a connection between the games, the AHSAA, the Quarterback Club, which is the fundraising arm of the Crippled Children’s Foundation (now called Quarterbacking for Children’s Health Foundation) and Children’s of Alabama,” said Drew Ferguson, the organizer of the coin toss, who is also director of sports medicine at Children’s of Alabama and member of the AHSAA Medical Advisory Committee.
According to Ferguson, before each championship game, children who are recovering from an illness or injury are chosen to represent the services provided by Children’s of Alabama. Oncology and rehab medicine are just two of the many services provided.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the kids and families are taking part in a special video to be shown before the coin toss this year.
“They represent the thousands of children that are treated each year at Children’s of Alabama,” added Ferguson. “The partnership with the high school championships has been great. It has allowed the high schools to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
How High School Football Built a Hospital
When you talk to members of the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, they tell you their motto within minutes.
“Football brought them together, fundraising sets them apart.”
The venerable organization has lived by those words for 81 years, and both high school football and children’s health charities have benefited immensely.
Want proof? Visit the corner of 16th Street in front of Children’s of Alabama and you will see a piece of history.
Surrounded by trees and shrubbery, you might miss the stone monument with a football on top. There are inscriptions on all four sides, but the words that stand out the most is the declaration etched in stone stating “The Hospital that Football Built.”
Beginning in 1935, there were football games played between College Freshman football teams benefitting the Crippled Children Clinic, a Birmingham institution set up to treat children with polio.
In 1943, the format changed, featuring the Birmingham City High School Championship on Thanksgiving Day. It was a hit. Sponsored and called the Monday Morning Quarterback Club Crippled Children’s Classic, the club donated more than $40,000 to the Clinic that year.
By 1945, the Quarterback Club began a campaign to provide the clinic with a dedicated hospital and by fall of 1951, the Crippled Children’s Clinic and Hospital opened at 620 South 19th Street on Birmingham’s Southside.
The monument that now stands in front of Children’s of Alabama was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1951. Because of the polio vaccine, the need for a hospital serving polio patients diminished drastically. In 1969, the hospital was sold to UAB and was subsequently torn down and replaced with the Spain-Wallace Building.
After the defeat of polio, the Club refocused their efforts to support children’s health causes, primarily at Children’s of Alabama.
The annual Monday Morning Quarterback Club Crippled Children’s Classic was played until 1973.
State High School Championship to Super 6
Throughout the 70s to the mid-90s, the Quarterback Club transformed the local Crippled Children’s Classic into the AHSAA 4A state championship game. Annually held in Birmingham at Legion Field, the game featured the state’s largest schools competing for the title.
In 1996, for the first time ever, all six high school classifications played their championship games at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Super 6 provided a bowl-like atmosphere. The Quarterback Club worked closely with the AHSAA and help make it all happen and helped organize the three-day annual event for 12 years.
It was no small task. During the Super 6 years, Quarterback Club members hosted teams big and small. Approximately 300 members out of the Club’s 700 would welcome teams from every corner of the state.
In 2009, the format evolved again when AHSAA decided to play the championship games at Auburn and Tuscaloosa. The event also became the Super 7 Football Championships when another classification was added in 2014.
The Quarterback Tower, Awards + Bringing Back the Super 7
Despite the Super 6 Championships departure from Birmingham, the Quarterback Club did not rest. Instead, they started fundraising. In 2010, the Club launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign ever—pledging $8M toward a new Quarterback Club Tower at the new state-of-the-art Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children.
Meanwhile, the Club’s commitment to high school football continues through its annual high school awards program. In 2018, three of the Birmingham area’s most decorated quarterbacks were honored—Pinson Valley’s Bo Nix, Thompson’s Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson of Hewitt-Trussville.
And one last bit of news.
The High School Championships are coming back to Birmingham. In November of 2019, the AHSAA announced a 12-year agreement with Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Auburn to begin a three-city rotation for the Super 7. Protective Stadium is the host in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030.
“We are thrilled as a Club to have the championships returning to Birmingham, now as the Super 7. Our Club is committed to engaging our members as key volunteers to serve the hundreds of student-athletes and coaches that will play for the coveted blue map at Protective Stadium in downtown Birmingham. We are grateful to the AHSAA, the City of Birmingham and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitor Bureau for its commitment to high school athletics, and we look forward to being a part of this incredible event.”Sims Garrison, 2020 Quarterback Club Captain
2020 Super 7 AHSAA Football Championships
This year’s Super 7 AHSAA State Football Championships will be held on December 2-4 in Tuscaloosa.
And it all starts with that coin toss, thanks to AHSAA, Monday Morning Quarterback Club and children’s health charities.