Gruden helps save the day - WFLA News Channel 8

Gruden helps save the day

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

He's no longer the head football coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Jon Gruden is the head of the Fired Football Coaches Association, which he founded after the 2008 season when he was fired by the Bucs after a 9-7 season.

  However, as far as some bay area high school football coaches and programs are concerned, Gruden being let go is the best thing that's happened to them.

  That's because Gruden has used FFCA licensed products to raise money for local high schools to help cover costs associated with football programs, not to mention digging into his own pocket on occasion.

  Saturday night in Tampa at the Hooters restaurant on Hillsborough Avenue, Gruden hosted the third installment of his program, which also had stops in St. Louis and Atlanta in conjunction with ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Buccaneers host the Miami Dolphins, so it was a natural fit for Gruden, who also invited his broadcast partners Mike Tirico and Lisa Salters to the event.

  And, as an added bonus, NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who will be inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor Monday night, stopped by to say a few words to the 8 coaches and schools from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties recognized by the FFCA.

  And as Gruden said, the true stars of the evening were the men who sacrifice time and money to help keep dreams alive.

 "I only measure the success of football on these fields where these guys coach", Gruden said.  "And they need our help.  These are great guys who work for nothing.  And they leave us with the best of memories, so we're going to honor them tonight and I wish we could do more".

  Besides providing each coach with a $1,000 check, a go pro camera and assorted gift cards, the timing of Gruden's generosity couldn't have been better, according to Hillsborough head football coach Earl Garcia.

  "We were sitting around the coaches office Thursday afternoon after our last practice of the season talking about the banquet and we said we have no money", Garcia said. "And then Jon gave us a call and the money he gives us is going to our kids' banquet and our kids' awards".

  Bradenton Southeast head coach Paul Machetle was also honored.  Machetle retired last Friday after forty successful years on the sidelines and said schools have to find other ways to generate revenue, even in a football-mad state such as Florida.

  "Going to a game is not the thing it used to be ten, fifteen, twenty years ago", Machetle said. "As a result, your attendance is a little lower, so therefor you don't have as much revenue coming in.  So anything like this is a boost to the income for a school".

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