The Arby’s Classic came to life during the 1982 high school basketball season, when Tennessee High’s Vikings traveled to Louisville, Ky., to play in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament. Upon returning home, THS coach Dale Burns and athletic director Bill Bingham began planning to have a similar tournament right after Christmas to take advantage of the newly constructed Viking Hall.
The following year, 1983, the tournament, called the Mountain Empire Classic initially, was born. Arby’s, led by Don Shawl, President of Arbico East, came on board that first year and has been the tournament’s sponsor ever since. Shawl’s commitment to funding and planning the Arby’s Classic has played a crucial role in the tournament’s success and in developing it into one of the country’s premier high school basketball events.
The tournament, which has drawn huge crowds from the beginning, also owes a special thanks to the Viking Boosters Club. No organization has given more of their time and passion to the tournament, with many of their members taking vacations from work to volunteer and be part of the Arby’s Classic. Likewise, the Tennessee High coaching staff has been instrumental in the tournament’s success as many of them give up their Christmas vacations to help. Their dedication and hard work help produce a high-quality event every year that runs seamlessly.
The Arby’s Classic’s growth can also be attributed to the coverage the local media affords it. Many visiting teams are astounded by the television, newspaper, and radio coverage the tournament receives. It is greatly appreciated, and we value our relationship with each of these entities.
The dedication, hard work, and commitment of everyone involved in the tournament have contributed to the overall success of the Arby’s Classic, making it one of the premier high school hoops events in the nation. It is indeed a Classic!