After Wheaton Warrenville South beat Maine South (44-7) in the Sept. 3 nationally broadcasted game, athletic director Mike Healy said there was a bit of a "lull" at Wheaton Warrenville South.
"Our school was so hyped and so energetic that it's been a little low-key (during the week after the game)," he said. While Healy wasn't sure of the exact number, he estimated that around 5,000 people attended the game.
WWS was approached about having a game broadcast on ESPNU when representatives of the school attended a spring conference hosted by Paragon Marketing LLC, as one of Gatorade's "Top 12" high school teams, Healy said. Paragon Marketing, LLC, which does corporate consulting for Gatorade and event-creation for ESPN, approached WWS to see if the school would be interested in having its game against Maine South on ESPN.
"They knew we had the returning 7A and returning 8A state champions playing each other and they asked us if we'd be interested," Healy said.
Paragon Partner Rashid Ghazi said that when selecting a game for ESPN, Paragon looks at a team's past performance, top recruits and game environment.
"We knew about their enthusiasm," Ghazi said of WWS. "We're only going to be as successful as the people at the schools help us be...They (WWS) recognized the opportunity and embraced it."
An opportunity to showcase the school on national television took weeks—months—of behind-the-scenes preparation.
"We knew that when we said yes to this it wasn't like they were just going to show up," Healy said. "It was a long process—in the two weeks prior there was a lot of changing, I learned a lot about exclusive advertising rights and things like that.
"You couldn't advertise anything that would be a competitor with their sponsors (ESPN or Paragon)," Healy explained.
Healy said some advertisers and media had to be turned away. He said ESPN Radio 1000 wanted to broadcast the game, but some of the station's advertisers would have conflicted with the sponsors found by Paragon.
Paragon managed the event by securing the venue, television rights, scheduling, logistics, game-day operations and national sponsorships, which included Nike, Gatorade and the U.S. Marines according to Ghazi.
Healy said, "Initially the date ended up not working out, the time they wanted to do it...and they gave us the option of 4 p.m. and we went back and figured out the logistics—both us and Maine South—because there were a lot of things that had to happen (such as) getting out of school (early)."
In days prior to the game, Nike sponsored a reuse-a-shoe competition between Maine South and WWS, where students donated used athletic shoes to be recycled. Materials from the shoes are shredded into "Nike Grind," a raw material that Nike Grind partners, such as Haro Sports or Playtop, use for surfaces in running tracks, gym flooring, turf infill, playground surfaces, indoor and outdoor synthetic courts or wood courts.
Nike also sponsored a 93-pound youth game between the Wheaton Rams, Wheaton Warrenville South's "feeder" program and Maine South's youth team, and a concert featuring "The Academy Is" on the WWS campus before the game.
The preparation was worthwhile, though, Healy said.
"It was a great opportunity for us to showcase our kids and to showcase our school (and for Maine South, too)...and the kids, I think they had a good time, they were extremely well-behaved.
"That was such an exciting thing...we had Nike here and ESPN here all in the same week...Mike Ditka showed up...Greg Olson Olsen...It was a whirlwind week."
"Obviously playing as well as we did helps, too."
Head coach Ron Muhitch said the lull was the result of a positive event.
"The community received it very well," he said. He added that it was an extraordinary opportunity for Wheaton, represented as a community—and for the football program.
Wheaton Warrenville South principal Dave Claypool came to District 200 from Maine South, and was in his first week on the job for the game. He said his loyalties were with the Tigers, though the game would be a chance to see two great groups of students.
"There are a lot of people at Maine South that I care about and respect highly," he said. "But at the end of the game, hopefully I'll be shaking their hands in consolation over their loss…I'm a Tiger."