JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – In his first comments since being named co-chair of East Tennessee State University’s football stadium fundraising committee country music superstar Kenny Chesney says he wants to inspire generations.
“I believe there are two things in the world that really pull people together: sports and music,” Chesney said in a statement provided to us by his publicist. “I know how big a part of my life they are. And over the years, the things I’ve learned growing up in East Tennessee have made a huge difference in my life. So to be able to help East Tennessee State raise the funds for a stadium seems like the best way to inspire generations of young people coming up and looking to make their mark on the world – whether they play there, go to games with their friends and make memories or learn how to dream.”
Public records reveal ETSU has had some communication with Chesney’s team in the months after announcing the alum’s involvement with the fundraising campaign.
ETSU Athletics Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer Scott Carter says part-time consultant Phillip Fulmer has talked directly to Chesney about the future of football at his old stomping grounds. However, beyond the former University of Tennessee coach, most other communication has gone through Chesney’s good friend and close business associate David Farmer, a fellow ETSU grad, Carter said.
Since the initial announcement, public records reveal Carter has exchanged a handful of texts with Farmer. Those texts helped set up meetings and lay the groundwork for future meetings. During homecoming week last month Carter texted “We need a win” and asked for Chesney’s shirt size.
“We’ve kind of inundated him with a lot of our new gear,” Carter said. “He looks really good in that new hat with that E on it and I’ve got some other things headed his way.”
Aside from his face value, Chesney’s involvement so far has remained limited, but Carter knows that alone is significant.
“He’s one of the busiest people on the planet, so for him to take the time to do anything on our behalf we’re thrilled about,” he said. “You really can’t put a dollar figure on that. When you can get that stud, that five-star, that incredible person as number one, which Kenny was right there in the very, very beginning of this, it just brings so much credibility to the whole campaign.”
Seven months after announcing the partnership with Chesney the university is well on its way to its fundraising goal. In fact, Carter says ETSU has identified roughly $20 million in funding for the stadium. The university’s goal is $26.6 million.
Carter says no matter the degree of Chesney’s involvement the university is already grateful.
“He’s known the world over and I think his passion for this university is a great asset for us,” Carter said. “Kenny is what I’ve called one of the crown jewels of this university. He’s just got so much credibility and so much talent. He’s an icon and for him to take his time and for him to allow us to utilize his name in support of this effort it tells a lot about what kind of person he is and how much he loves where he’s from. There are members of his camp that are also East Tennessee State University grads and are lifelong friends that have personal investment to see us do well and want us to succeed in everything that we do and that makes it very special.”
So what’s next? That is unclear. Carter says plenty of people have asked him if Chesney will visit ETSU.
“Our door will always be open of course and I’ll never put him in a corner on that by any means, but they’ll always be games to be had and stadiums to be opened,” Carter said. “We’re always going to make sure he knows how much he’s loved here and that any time he’d like to come back he’s always welcome.”
Although Carter has not had any direct conversations or face-to-face meetings with Chesney he is hopeful Chesney’s efforts so far will set the stage for a long relationship.
In addition to fundraising, Carter says Chesney and his team can also offer advice if ETSU wants to host concerts at the stadium one day.
Chesney’s tweet on ETSU Football revival back in September 2014:
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