While a Glencliff football player will now not be reprimanded for colliding with an official during a game at Gallatin Friday, the official is now under suspension by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association for a different matter.
Glencliff senior Malcolm Easley ran over umpire Kyle Gill during the game, and video of the collision sparked debate over whether it was targeting — which is considered intentionally going after a referee.
The Colts coaching staff had originally disciplined Easley, including a one-game suspension, but Glencliff Principal Clint Wilson overruled the staff’s decision and lifted the suspension Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Gill, who has voiced his displeasure over the collision, calling it “malicious,” was placed on suspension by the TSSAA while it investigates whether he provided improper background information prior to being hired as an official.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said in a statement to The Tennessean: “The officials for athletic contests between schools are not TSSAA employees. They register with TSSAA and are required to undergo some training in the TSSAA rules of the game, but they work as independent contractors, hired by the schools through arrangements with local officials associations.
“It was brought to our attention this afternoon that a particular football official (Gill) may not have fully and accurately disclosed his background as we require when someone applies for registration as a TSSAA official. We promptly contacted the official and informed him that his registration with TSSAA is suspended effective immediately while we verify whether the information we received is accurate.”
As of Wednesday evening, Gill had not returned calls inquiring about the suspension. Childress declined to comment on the nature of the background check.
Originally Easley was given disciplinary action by head coach and father Brandon Easley, which included a one-game suspension.
According to a statement from the Metro Schools’ Athletic Steering Committee Wednesday afternoon, Wilson overturned the penalties on the senior standout.
“The TSSAA has ruled that this was not a malicious act, so I am overruling Mr. Easley’s decision. Malcolm will not be suspended from play and will be on the field this Friday night,” said Wilson. “I agree with the TSSAA and believe there was no malicious intent in this hit. It was an accident. … He didn’t realize the person he was running toward was an official.
“Malcolm is genuinely sorry for all of this. He’s a good kid and a clean football player who had no intention of hitting Mr. (Kyle) Gill. He knows how serious that is and what it would mean for his future in football. He hopes Mr. Gill will accept his sincere apology. We all want to move past this and play some more good Glencliff football.”
Added Roosevelt Sanders, district coordinator for athletics and head of the Athletic Steering Committee: “Even though this was an accident, every player should be conscious at all times of where they are, where the other players are and where the officials are. We love football, but safety is always priority one. That goes for players and personnel.”
The TSSAA ruled that it would not reprimand Easley for running over Gill as the act was deemed to not have malicious intent.
“We look at the video and make a determination based on that,” TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said. “There were five officials on the field. If they thought it was malicious or anything they had the opportunity to eject and chose not to. After looking at it we came away with the same decision.”
In the video Easley is lined up in the safety position, begins pursuing the ball-carrier going right, and runs over Gill in the process.
After the play, Gill threw a flag, issued a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul and the game continued.
In a radio interview that will air on A to Z Sports on 94.9 The Game 2 at 8 a.m. Thursday, Gill said he thought the play was malicious when it happened, but that he didn’t have the authority to eject the player.
“I thought it was 100 percent on purpose and that’s the reason why I got up and flagged him,” Gill said. “He walked up to me and told me, ‘Hey you’re getting in my way.’ And I turned around and I said, ‘How long have you been playing football?’ I said that the referee is a part of the field and you have to go around me. And that was after the play before. The 25-second clock was counting down, we lined up, and that’s when he hit me.
“These kids think that they can do whatever they want to do and until they are held accountable they’re going to keep doing it.
“Being as no one else saw it, it was deemed that we couldn’t eject him.”
Childress said that should not have been the case.
“That is not true,” Childress said. “He did have the authority to do that. He felt it, he saw who hit him, he could have ejected him.
“They had two options, either it was accidental or it was intentional. There was no ejection of this player for intentional, so by rule they deemed that accidental themselves. And if they failed to do that then they did not do what was required to do as an official.”
Without an ejection, the TSSAA was faced with limited options when dealing with the incident.
“We thought people might not understand our role or our authority in these types of situations,” Childress said. “Our actions would have been, since he was not ejected, asking, ‘Does this warrant Glencliff’s entire program being suspended for the remainder of the school year?’ That would have been our only option.”
Glencliff plays at home against Hunters Lane on Friday.
Cecil Joyce contributed to this report. Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.