Today's interviewee is Jasper Jewell, director of athletics for Atlanta Public Schools. Jewell is a former head football coach at Miller Grove and Stone Mountain. This year, he helped create the Great Atlanta Bash, a three-game football event scheduled for Saturday at Georgia State Stadium and featuring five APS schools. The games are South Atlanta vs. Washington (10 a.m.), Jackson vs. Carver (12:40 p.m.) and Mays vs. New Manchester (3:20 p.m.). They will be televised by Peachtree TV.
Jasper Jewell, Atlanta Public Schools athletic director
1. What is the Great Atlanta Bash, and how did it come to be? "About 11 years ago, we used to celebrate our APS high schools in the Georgia Dome. We had an event called Domecoming where all the schools would have their homecoming game in the Georgia Dome. After Mercedes-Benz Stadium was built, that event went defunct. So we sat down with I.J. Rosenberg of Score Atlanta and told him we wanted to do something to celebrate our high schools again in a college-style arena. I came up with the name Great Atlanta Bash. It's an annual event that we'll have moving forward. My goal is not only to promote athletics but to give kids the best opportunity they can have. Many of our kids would never venture into Georgia State Stadium or Mercedes-Benz Stadium or SunTrust Park. It's a pleasure and a joy to have this chance to provide them this experience and exposure. And then being on Peachtree TV, that puts the icing on the cake."
2. Why was Georgia State the ideal facility for you? "Charlie Cobb [Georgia State's athletic director] has been wonderful helping us put this event together. We have a great partnership with them. Their track teams train at Lakewood, one of our stadiums. The No. 1 thing about Georgia State's stadium is that it's right in the heart of downtown, which represents Atlanta Public Schools. It splits the attendance zone of Carver and Maynard Jackson, which are two of the participating schools. It feels like home to us, and we want to make it our home at least once a year. Georgia State has welcomed us with open arms like no one else ever has, and we're grateful for them giving our kids and coaches this opportunity."
3. You're a former head coach, now the athletic director for a school system. Do you miss coaching, and what do you enjoy about being AD? "I had a wonderful 16 years as a school-level AD and coach, but as I continued to coach, I felt I could give something to an entire system. I wanted to expand my horizons and step out there on good faith and serve kids on a broader level and put APS on the map in a positive manner. That's what it's about for me. It's been a great nine-and-a-half-year run for me, the first four as an assistant AD. I have great support from district leadership."
4. What's the state of football in Atlanta Public Schools, and what are some of the challenges? "What I like is I have a group of coaches that truly care about our kids. At an inner-city school, you're more than just a coach. You're like a father, big brother and counselor to these kids. It takes a certain skill set to be a head coach in Atlanta Public Schools. We're not blessed with an abundance of resources and parental support and booster clubs. Some of the challenges we see now is fund-raising so that coaches have the ability to do things such as send kids to clinics and camps. We have to offset that with partnerships. We try to minimize activity fees because a lot of our families can't afford those activities. You have to leverage as many partnerships with stakeholders that aren't always inclusive of the parents. You have to reach out to local businesses and anyone else willing to buy into it. I do have to mention one thing that separates us from other school districts is our partnership with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. They've been gracious enough to fund 10 player-smart coaches that solely support our athletic programs. They come and set up tutorials, make sure that SAT/ACT prep is going on and help them get set up with the NCAA eligibility center. The Cam Newton Foundation has been wonderful for us also. They've done a lot for our schools through 7-on-7's and showcases they've put on a Lakewood."
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