Pigskin Pick title goes to Guckert after review; Womble files legal challenge

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Circuit Clerk deputy Heather Turner stamps the paperwork filed in the Batesville Courthouse today by Tom Womble and Kirk Rowsey. Womble and Rowsey hope to overturn the decision to award the 2020 Pigskin Picks championship to Bailey Guckert. At his Kirk Brothers office, Guckert was on the phone with his team of attorneys in anticipation of the challenge to his 1st place finish.


A legal challenge of the results in the 2020 Pigskin Picks was filed shortly after noon Wednesday in the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office at the Courthouse.

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Batesville lawyer Tom Womble and businessman Kirk Rowsey are contesting the final results in the popular football “pick em” contest that pits local pickers against each other in a 12-week contest, with the 1st and 2nd place winners receiving a trophy at the end of the year.

Readers also participate each week for three small cash prizes. The contest generates hundreds of entries each week, and some readers have participated in the fun game for decades.

Womble was initially declared the 2020 winner and Rowsey the runner-up on Tuesday. The Wednesday edition of the newspaper carried a front page article with a photo announcing Womble’s victory, as did the newspaper’s website. The website story received thousands of page views and Womble said he received congratulatory calls from across the Southeast.

However, early Wednesday morning The Panolian was contacted by 3rd place finisher Bailey Guckert, who said his calculations showed he was the real winner. After a short meeting with publisher Rebecca Alexander, where he presented the evidence of all the weekly picks, Guckert was declared the winner and Womble the 2nd place finisher.

“There was an error on the spreadsheet we used, and it was clear to me that Mr. Guckert was indeed the winner,” Alexander said. “I contacted Mr. Womble to offer the newspaper’s apology for the misunderstanding. It was clear to the management team of the newspaper that Mr. Guckert’s numbers were correct, and I tried to relay that message to Mr. Womble.”

Womble, who had already hired caterers and live entertainment for a celebration party, did not receive the news of his 2nd place finish well, asserting that he is the rightful winner and any attempt by Guckert to claim the victory would be met with vigorous opposition.

The law office of Bailey, Womble & Yelton issued the following statement on behalf of their longtime firm partner:

“Tom Womble is proud of the many hours of football research that earned him the prestigious 1st place trophy in this year’s Pigskin Picks contest. Mr. Womble feels certain that his fellow pickers will concede the 2020 championship without the necessity of a recount or contest.”

Speaking to reporters after the statement was released Womble said he “went to bed with the lead and woke up to this nonsense.”

“I’ve retained counsel and we are going to let the process play out,” Womble said. “I’m not going to disclose too much information, but I can say that because the law firm’s office is next to the newspaper office we were able to review our closed circuit footage and saw something very interesting. We are prepared to show that a vehicle made a delivery of Pigskin Pick ballots to the back loading dock of the newspaper office in a truck with no license plates. I ask this question, ‘Who do we know that has access to trucks with no license plates?”

Bailey Guckert, of course, is manager of Kirk Brothers of Batesville where part of his job is overseeing an inventory of dozens such trucks.

“No way,” said Guckert, when contacted for reaction to the legal documents. “I’ve got lawyers, guns, and money on the way now. I have much respect for Mr. Womble, but I spent hours and hours doing research each week to win the Pigskin Picks. The President might let them take away his votes, but I’m hanging on to mine. I won this thing fair and square and I’m ready for any challenge.”

Guckert added that Womble’s legal maneuver did not worry him. “Anybody can do down to the courthouse and file papers, people do it every day. Bottom line is this: On Friday morning I’m going to accept the 1st place trophy and will be the 2020 Pigskin Picks champion. I’m hoping by then Mr. Womble’s fellow attorneys have convinced him to drop this ludicrous challenge. They are doing all the law firm’s real work while he’s out making these baseless claims and tying up the county’s court system.”

Rowsey issued no statement, but was overheard telling his supporters that “numbers don’t lie.” He thanked his research team for their hard work and seemed to be content to “try again next year.” A couple of hours later, when the photo of Rowsey accompanying Womble at the Circuit Clerk’s office surfaced, he claimed to have no prior knowledge of the challenge.

“Honestly, Tom came by and said he wanted to take me to lunch. The next thing I knew we were down at the Courthouse and he was filing papers,” Rowsey said. “I thought we were going to get a sandwich.”

In one other twist to the debacle, Batesville attorney C. Gaines Baker – owner of the tallest building on the Downtown Square – contacted the newspaper shortly after learning of Womble’s challenge to overturn the results of the contest and offered to represent The Panolian, pro bono, from possible litigation.

“When my Courthouse sources let me know that Womble will be representing himself, I immediately advised The Panolian to retain legal counsel to preserve the integrity of the local newspaper against any privileging information of misconduct. It’s obvious when you consider the main characters involved here. You have a small town lawyer, a used car salesman, and a guy who sells lawnmowers and four wheelers. None of which, in my opinion, is going to let the truth stand in the way of good testimony.”

Baker said these “situations” are not new territory for him, summing up the matter simply saying, “You’re going to need a lawyer at least as crooked as them and I’m happy to offer my services.”

“As a concerned citizen of this community, I don’t want the intentions of the local paper called into question by these unscrupulous characters and their frivolous lawsuits,” Baker said.