Kreager: Tweaking system better than complete public-private split

Daily News Journal sports reporter Tom Kreager.

Daily News Journal sports reporter Tom Kreager.

It’s D-Day Thursday for the TSSAA’s Legislative Council.

Public vs. Private.

Everything is on the table for debate at 1 p.m. when the council meets to vote on one of five plans at the DoubleTree Hotel. Council members have spent the past month examining information the high school athletic association’s staff presented.

Thursday, high school athletics as we know it could take a significant turn.

At task is leveling what public schools insist is a non-level playing field. Since 1996, the TSSAA has offered two leagues — one division for private schools that offer need-based financial aid and another division with public and private schools that do not offer that aid.

Now, a call from the overwhelming majority of public schools is for all private schools to be placed in the same league.

Be careful what you wish here folks. To me, a few tweaks may appease the masses and avert a total split.

Make all schools that offer student employment — or work study — go to Division II. Say private schools can’t hire non-faculty coaches who have kids on the team.

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But tread lightly here and look at the big picture before banishing 24 private schools to a league that offers need-based financial aid despite having no vote in the decision.

Don’t punish schools because about five schools have talented athletic programs and are perennial state title contenders. They deserve the right to have a choice.

When the TSSAA created the Division II for need-based financial aid they offered private schools the choice. They could remain in Division I if they didn’t offer need-based aid.

But a decision by the council could take that ability to make that decision away. Sure offering aid is a choice, but schools must offer aid to compete in DII.

Let’s be honest. This is about state championships. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.

Folks, Thursday there will be a landmark decision — no matter the outcome of the vote. It will be decided after 17 months of discussion.

Not only will the entire state be watching and waiting word on a decision, but also every high school athletic association in the country will be paying close attention to what decision is approved.

Currently, Tennessee is one of four states that have a public-private split.

Georgia splits its public and private schools in its smallest classification in the postseason. Louisiana is holding a postseason split in football this year, but is looking to put everyone back together by the 2016-17 school year. New Jersey has split public and private schools. Private schools are looking into forming their own organization.

Look, there is no perfect classification in Tennessee. The geographic landscape of the state doesn’t allow for it.

But a complete split is not the answer.

Tom Kreager is the high school sports writer for The Daily News Journal. Contact him at 615-278-5168 or Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.

TSSAA Legislative Council Meeting

When: 1 p.m., Thursday

Where: DoubleTree Hotel, Murfreesboro

Meeting is open to the public.

Go to for a Livestream of the meeting.

Follow Tom Kreager on Twitter @Kreager for updates.

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