Greg Hayman said it sounded like a good idea.
The Sacramento City College director of operations met with Kevin Kelly and Steve Caruso last January about renting Hughes Stadium for a four-game high school football preseason showcase, the West Coast Classic, that might include Grant, fresh off winning the California Interscholastic Federation State Bowl Open Division championship.
The event would be sponsored by Nike, a company Kelly is involved with, and run by Caruso's promotions company, which has put on popular high school charity basketball showcases.
The goal was to try to fill 23,000-seat Hughes Stadium.
A revenue-sharing formula would be used for the participating teams and also raise funds for Francis House, a homeless resource and counseling center in Sacramento.
What followed were a series of missteps and some unforeseen complications that left schools scrambling and promoters trying to explain why the event died.
"Everybody was enthused," Hayman said. "I said, 'Here's the requirements.'
That included $10,000 to rent the stadium and a 50 percent deposit 60 days before the Sept. 5 event.
"We kept waiting for a call," Hayman said.
The deadline passed but Caruso and Kelly eventually met with Hayman on Aug. 14. Now a three-game event without Grant involved, the fee was reset to $8,000 for the rental, security, staffing and clean-up expenses.
But the leery Hayman wanted the entire sum up front.
He said Caruso and Kelly balked.
"It seems they were counting on the gate receipts," he said. "But they wanted someone to front that effort."
A few days later Hayman received a call. "Will you take half?" Hayman declined.
"I gave them until the end of business day Aug. 18 to come up with all the money," he said.
That day came and passed and a few days later the event wound up at Whitney, which had made an 11th-hour agreement to become the host school as required by California Interscholastic Federation bylaw that Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner Pete Saco had pointed out organizers were violating.
That's when the already problematic event died.
Participants decided it didn't make sense to play at 3,700-seat Whitney when they could play at their own stadiums and draw bigger crowds and make more money.
Ponderosa, which was scheduled to play Berkeley at 7 p.m. in the West Coast Classic, is now playing the Yellowjackets in a nonleague game at their own 3,500-seat stadium in Shingle Springs on Saturday night.
The Bruins will dedicate a new $2 million all-weather artificial football field, so they are expecting an overflow crowd.
"All this has worked out well for us," said Ponderosa Athletic Director Tyson Escobar. "By staying on site we are going to make quite a bit more money."
Escobar said once the event was moved from Hughes Stadium to Whitney it killed what had been an intriguing idea.
"Our kids were looking forward to playing at Sacramento City College," he said. "It's a great place for a high school football game, it was going to be the only show in town in Week Zero, and it had some great matchups."
He said getting to play an out-of-section team like Berkeley also was a lure for the Bruins.
"But that's the positive," he said. "We're still playing Berkeley. It's a win, win for us."
But it may be a lose-lose for Caruso and Kelly. Both put many hours into a project, with only bruised egos and lost credibility to show for it.
Caruso says the event was done in by a series of circumstances, some beyond their control, for an enterprise that evolved into something quite different from what they envisioned several months earlier.
Caruso said the original plan was to hold four Sept. 5 games, with Grant, Jesuit, St. Mary's of Stockton, Elk Grove and Whitney among the big draws.
They wanted to pit Grant against Central Section power Clovis West in the top game. But when the Pacers weren't willing to change a scheduled home game against Montgomery of Santa Rosa scheduled the same weekend, Caruso thought it might be better to wait until next year.
"To me having Grant was the key," Caruso said. "They are kind of a magical team. They create a buzz."
But he said Kelly thought they could still pull together a successful event.
There were more problems, though.
They couldn't get Jesuit, St. Mary's or Elk Grove because those schools aren't allowed to play in the so-called Zero Week under section rules (the section season officially begins Sept. 11), and Saco would not grant a waiver.
They pared down to six teams but Caruso said getting the participants and firming up details took time. He agreed it also became more financially risky. They had hoped that Sac City officials would be understanding and give them a break on the up-front rental money.
"Once Sac City decided to play hard ball, that made it really tough," Caruso said. "We figured this was an event Sac City would want."
He said they also were blind-sided by Saco's insistence that a host high school be responsible for the event. That led to Caruso's departure, leaving Kelly to try to patch things together with Whitney officials at the last minute.
"Saco gets involved from out of nowhere," Caruso said. "For six years we've done the hoops benefit (It was Hoops Classic 2009 last winter) for charity, and we never heard about any problems with it. Maybe that's the rule, but everybody's been happy with what we've done with hoops."
But Saco said CIF bylaw 701 D is clear: "Management and control of all finances connected with the activity shall remain with the host high school."
"I've got a bylaw to follow," Saco said.
When in late July Saco contacted Matt Williams, the organizer of the Sept. 12 four-game Battle at the Capital at Folsom High School, and informed him of the rule, Williams was quick to make arrangements with Del Oro to host the event.
"I think it's a great rule," Williams said. "There's got to be accountability."
Saco didn't mince words about the West Coast Classic's problems.
"The reason this fell apart is that it wasn't set up in the proper fashion to begin with," Saco said. "That's the bottom line."
Despite coming out bruised from the experience, both Kelly and Caruso haven't given up on the idea of trying to do a similar showcase next year.
Kelly has already talked to a number of state powers about participating in a 2010 event and says he also has fielded inquiries from out-of-state teams, too.
"I learned a lot from this," Kelly said. "It's really important to communicate not just with the coaches but with the schools involved and the section and state offices. That's one thing we could have done better.
"I still believe our area is a prime place to do this. If you have the right teams, you can fill a place like Hughes Stadium."