No Pressure. It's Just Texas High School Football.

Katy High School was going to play against a Florida team on national TV. Now all it had to do was find a way to win again.

In 2003 he started Titus, naming it after a verse from the real Bible: "In everything set an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity," Titus 2:17.

The first big deal was a ten-year, $1.9 million naming-rights contract between the Tyler Independent School District and an East Texas hospital system. The money allowed the district to upgrade its football stadium, and the facility now hosts more high school playoff games than anywhere else in the state except Texas Stadium, a National Football League venue.

The Texas Football Classic was also created, in part, by Stephenson, and in 2005 he brought in a team from Hollywood, Florida, coached by Mark Guandolo, the current head coach at Cypress Bay.

Coach Gary Joseph says the team retooled after a 47-0 loss against Woodlands High School.
Daniel Kramer
Coach Gary Joseph says the team retooled after a 47-0 loss against Woodlands High School.
Parker Ray's father and grandfather played football at Katy High.
Daniel Kramer
Parker Ray's father and grandfather played football at Katy High.


Click here for a version of this story told from Florida’s perspective by the Houston Press ’ sister paper, New Times.

Titus has also connected Carroll ISD, Southlake's district, with The Performance Course, a private strength and conditioning company aimed at high school athletes, which put its name on Carroll's football practice facility.

The list of examples of Titus bringing money to schools is long, and some districts are so eager to cash in that blanket deals are signed with the company, allowing Titus to sell all district teams and events to advertisers, then splitting the revenues 50/50.

The role of Titus at schools across the state has mushroomed so fast and wide that in February of this year, Texas Monthly named Stephenson one of 35 people who will shape the future of Texas.

"If we can help out high schools to bring in more revenue, in this day and age where schools are hurting for money, that's huge," Stephenson says. "It's a little bit different if we were selling advertising in a classroom, if we were selling advertising on a blackboard or students' lockers, but we're selling advertising at a football venue."

Stephenson also sets up and promotes individual games, an idea that started amid the frenzy coaches go through to find non-district opponents.

That problem comes up every two years when the University Interscholastic League realigns districts, and football coaches and athletic directors meet in gymnasiums across the state to hear the morning announcement. The new districts are flashed on a screen and coaches scramble to find games, turning the gyms into a Wall Street-like trading atmosphere.

"The coaches all start moving to get closer so they can see, and all of a sudden — boom — it happens," says Rusty Dow­ling, athletic director of Katy Independent School District. "The guys will hold up two fingers yelling, 'I need two, I need two,' or 'I need two away.'"

Coaches from the powerhouse teams have trouble because no school wants to get rolled in a preseason, nondistrict game. Katy High School left this year's realignment with one nondistrict game and a six-game schedule.

There's little Stephenson won't do to help a school without an opponent. For example, earlier this season a high school in the Dallas suburb of Allen needed a game for the second week of the season.

"We tried for a couple weeks to help them find a game. We thought we had a team from Florida lined up, but that didn't work out," Stephenson says.

So, a team from a prep academy in Monterrey, Mexico, traveled to Allen to play. Allen High School beat Monterrey Tec 55-15.

"It's almost like, not the dating game but, where you have a lot of coaches around the country that don't have the network we do, and they're really stuck," Stephenson says.

In the Southlake Carroll match, both teams were coming off undefeated seasons and state championships. Miami Northwestern was the top-ranked high school in an ESPN national poll; Southlake Carroll was first in a poll by USA Today.

In front of a packed house at Southern Methodist University's stadium in Dallas, Miami beat Southlake 29-21.

The Katy school district, which had already used Titus to negotiate a two-year, $200,000 contract with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, wanted a bigger deal. In November 2007, athletic director Dow­ling pitched the company to district board members, hoping to secure a blanket marketing contract.

"I'm not a business major, so it's nice to have some folks who are very well versed in that arena," Dowling says. "[The argument against] is the commercialization of high school sports. I understand that to a point, but I see our budgets, and we're not getting any more money. But we are adding so many kids and so many different teams that somehow we have to create some alternative revenue streams ­someplace."

Dowling says Titus "has the ESPN contacts, they have all that kind of stuff. That's their world, I know it, but I don't know all the stuff that goes in behind it, and you need to know that kind of stuff."

During the talks between Dowling and Titus, some of the heaviest, best organized opposition came from the Katy Citizens Watchdog$, a group started in 2005 after band boosters from Morton Ranch High School were charged an access fee to host a banquet at Katy's Leonard E. Merrell Center, a massive city-owned complex with a 7,200-seat arena.

"Some of the board members really wanted to enter this deal with Titus," says Chris Cottrell, a founder of the watchdog group. "I know that a lot of booster organizations around town were very concerned that doing something like this would cut into their fund-raising activities. We don't need help naming stadiums; we've got a district with 6,000 employees."

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