A local high school sports enthusiast has anonymously donated $35,000 to Hillsborough County, allowing the restoration of athletic programs eliminated in recent budget cuts, county athletic director Wayne Williamson said Thursday. Williamson said the $17,000 will be used to save the spring football jamborees; the trip for a county all-star track and field team to participate in the Florida Relays; and the staging of junior high playoffs in football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball and track.
The remaining $18,000 will be deposited in the nearly exhausted county trust account, which is used to pay for required insurance premiums ($34) or shoes ($30) or physical examinations (a $15 minimum) for students who cannot afford them.
"It's a fabulous contribution," Williamson said. "It puts back three things we cut, and the trust account is one thing we needed badly. The money for the trust has come from jamborees since 1971, but the past two years Mother Nature has hurt us and the account was depleted to almost nothing."
Two years ago, all four fall football jamborees were rained out. Rain also has forced some cancellations in spring jamborees the past two years, Williamson said.
Tampa Bay Vo-Tech would have been one of the hardest-hit schools had the trust account not been replenished. Vo-Tech was told it could have only 30 insurance waivers, barely enough for varsity football, Titans football coach Joe Severino said.
"It probably would have cost us our junior varsity program, and I was worried about some of the kids on the varsity," Severino said. "I didn't know what we were going to do. We don't have a booster club. I'm very happy."
Although Williamson would not divulge the identity of the charitable individual, some area coaches assume that George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the New York Yankees, is their benefactor.
Steinbrenner, a former high school coach at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ohio, in 1989 established a foundation to sponsor an annual banquet honoring county high school coaches. Steinbrenner said he could not comment about rumors that he was responsible for this donation.