THIS YEAR'S City All-Star Football Classic will include a missing Linc.
As in . . . The 39th annual game, featuring Philly's top high school seniors in a Public/Non-Public format, will not be played at the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field, as had been the case the last 3 years.
To say Brian Fluck, West Catholic's coach and president of the organization that runs the game, is disappointed, is to put it mildly.
He remains especially bewildered by the fact he tried to finalize plans for this year's game - now set for May 18, 7 p.m., at Northeast High - a shade before Thanksgiving and didn't receive an official ya-gotta-look-elsewhere statement from Eagles brass until mid-February.
"We've been scrambling ever since," Fluck said. "Things kept getting put off . . . put off . . . put off. Then they finally told us it wasn't gonna work out.
"The last 3 years were great. A wonderful overall experience for the kids. We had Parents Night at the Linc. Picture Day for the Players. Media Day. The banquet. Everything was there."
Fluck said one player, of Imhotep Charter, dropped off the Public roster upon learning of the site change.
"He didn't want to play anymore at a high school facility," Fluck noted. "For him it was the Linc or nothing."
Derek Boyko, director of media services, provided an email statement when asked why the Eagles are no longer hosting the game.
It reads: "The game is a wonderful tradition that the Eagles have supported for many years. For this year's game, we covered the costs of the game and contributed a semi-truck-load of equipment that will outfit the all-stars for several years to come. Having the game in a neighborhood setting offers the game's organizers a better opportunity to sell tickets and make enough money to set aside scholarship money for athletes, which we think is a wonderful idea."
Fluck said the Eagles are contributing $10,000, and that the game's total cost, factoring in money for scholarships, will likely approach $50,000.
The team's "equipment" donation, he said, was limited to game pants and socks.
"They couldn't use it anymore," he added. "The NFL uses Nike now. This stuff's all Reebok."
Fluck's first meeting on the subject of this year's game was with Greg McDonald, who directs the Eagles' accounting department.
"Greg was great all along," Fluck said. "He always tried his best for us. But he was only a middleman."
Finally, Fluck and Doug Macauley, the former Dobbins Tech coach and the game's vice president, met with McDonald, Bill Hudock (marketing), Anne Gordon (media/communications) and Frank Gumienny (CFO).
"They mentioned that the stadium would be undergoing renovations," Fluck said. "They also said the attendance wasn't what they'd been expecting."
Fluck said about 6,500 watched the game in 2010 while the numbers for 2011 and '12 were between 4,000 and 5,000.
Over the years, Northeast has hosted the vast majority of the All-Star Classics. The far-and-away, high-water mark came in 1978, though, when 28,432 witnessed Non-Public's, 36-8, win at Franklin Field.
One of this year's players, Frankford quarterback Tim DiGiorgio, bound for Temple as a preferred walk-on, attended last year's game.
"It'd be nice to play at the Linc, but just being around all the guys and part of the game is more than enough for me," he said.
Nevertheless . . .
"That was my first time at the Linc," he added. "I was so excited to be there, especially since six of my close friends from Frankford's team were in the game. You walk in and look around, and the place is so big. During warm-ups I was right down by the gate that leads to the field. Then we watched it all from maybe 10 rows up.
"I was wishing I'd been part of it. I was visualizing getting my chance to do that this year. I got picked for the team, then later we all got letters saying the game would be [at Northeast]."
Fluck said the City All-Star Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame - the chapter's director, Milt Halstead, is one of the game's co-founders - will make a large donation toward trying to cover the costs of this year's game, along with scholarships, and that the Maxwell Club will also be part of the large-chunk support group in 2014. He's hopeful other groups/individuals will step forward.