HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS: TSSAA Board delays its decision on football reclassification

HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS: TSSAA Board delays its decision on football reclassification

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HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS: TSSAA Board delays its decision on football reclassification

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MURFREESBORO

Decision day will have to wait until next month in regards to high school football reclassification in Tennessee.

The nine-member TSSAA Board of Control decided Thursday it needed more time before choosing between two football classification plans set for the 2013-17 seasons.

The TSSAA Board of Control voted 5-4 to table the reclassification of high school football and set a special-called meeting for 9 a.m. on July 12 at a location to be determined. The extra time was made to allow board members more time to talk to school administrators and football coaches in their respective districts.

“I just think this allows schools to get more information,” said Bolivar principal Fred Kessler, who is the Board of Control vice president and made the motion to table the vote.

The motion to delay a vote was passed 5-4. Tullahoma athletic director Jerry Mathis, Lewis County athletic director Bryan True, Hillwood principal Steve Chauncy and Knoxville Fulton athletic director Jody Wright voted against tabling reclassificaton. The motion was made against the urging of TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress to discuss reclassification and make a decision.

Various board members refused to say how they would have voted. However, True said he would have voted for five football classifications. Childress said he wouldn’t give his recommendation until prior to the board voting.

The board must also vote on a three-class and four-class system for non-football sports. However, it appears the board is pleased with the current three-class system. The proposed four-class system would change every non-football state tournament format. It would change tournaments from eight teams to four teams in baseball, basketball, softball, soccer and volleyball.

“I think (the board) is pretty satisfied with the three classes across the board and A/AA in other sports,” Childress said. “I haven’t got that confirmed, but that doesn’t seem like that is the issue. Right now they aren’t comfortable with whether we go five classes or six classes in football.”

In a survey conducted by The Tennessean last season, 60 percent of Division I high school football coaches said they wanted to return to the old five-class system. Division I schools include all public and private institutions that do not give need-based financial aid. That system advanced the top four teams in each region to the playoffs and played a team from a corresponding region. The current system has reduced travel for most. But coming up with the playoff qualifiers and a playoff bracket has been less clear-cut than the five-class format.

However, a return to the five-class system that was in place from 1993-2008 would be significantly different in that several of the regions lines have moved due to changes in enrollments and the addition of schools over the past three years. That has had considerable travel for some under the proposal.

“It’s easy to do what the football coach wants,” Kessler said. “But if Neyland Stadium doesn’t get full, then the AD and the president are gone. If the football coach doesn’t win, he’s gone too. But if that stadium isn’t full, somebody is getting ready to have problems. There is no doubt for West Tennessee that travel is increased tremendously in 5A.

“There are a lot of schools that are going to places that they haven’t gone in the past.”

In a preliminary release of regions in a potential five-class format using January school enrollments, all six large Rutherford County teams remained grouped together with Cookeville and Lebanon. Eagleville was scheduled to be sent to southern Middle Tennessee and grouped with teams like Collinwoood, Cornersville, Perry County and Richland. MTCS, though, was sent north where it would be in a region with Trousdale County, Friendship Christian, Gordonsville and Red Boiling Springs among others, greatly adding to the Cougars’ travel.

The proposed regions could and likely change some. When it places teams in regions or districts in the November meeting, the TSSAA uses enrollments after school begins. Schools also will be given an option to play up in classification as well as move to Division II, which gives need-based financial aid. Schools in Division II also will have the opportunity to join Division I, if they cease handing out aid.

“It would make it tough,” said MTCS coach Brian Stewart of his proposed 1A region. “It would definitely increase travel and the toughness of the schedule. But we’ll have to do what they lay out.

“When I was at Jackson Christian, we were a 1A school but played in 2A because of the multiplier. At the end of the day all we can do is play and compete against the teams we’re grouped with.”

Eagleville coach Steve Carson was fine with his proposed region. He said ideally, the team would fill non-district games from current conference teams Cascade, Community, Forrest and MTCS, which could help offset expanded travel.

“I could live with (the proposed region) if we go back to five,” Carson said. “Right now we have to travel to find non-district games. Our non-district games hopefully would be just up the road from us.”

Mathis, who represents Rutherford County, pointed out that the districts are simply proposals.

“I think there could be some (teams) move,” Mathis said. “But you can only do that if it doesn’t logjam other districts. This right here is not in concrete.”

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