A potential landmark decision by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is a mere hours away in Murfreesboro.
And no one — not even TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress — can predict how things will play out when the nine-member Legislative Council votes on a potential public-private split.
“If you asked anyone in this office what we thought the vote would be, we wouldn’t have a clue,” Childress said. “I’ve literally had council members say, ‘I’ll keep an open mind, and I’ll know how I’m going to vote when I raise my hand.'”
The council was given five options to consider. Of the eight council members polled by The Tennessean, only one gave a definitive answer. Hardin County principal and District 7 representative William McAdams said he will vote against a split.
Watertown principal Jeff Luttrell said that he knows how he’ll vote, but the District 4 representative chose not to make it public.
“I’m comfortable with what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to tell the media,” Luttrell said. “I know where I’m at and what I think is best.”
Soddy-Daisy’s Dan Gilbert (District 3) and Memphis Central’s Greg McCullough (9) said they haven’t yet decided how they’ll vote. Science Hill’s Keith Turner (1), Knoxville Central’s Michael Reynolds (2), Lewis County’s Mike Tatum (6) and Bradford Special Schools’ Dan Black (8) did not respond.
Maplewood principal Ron Woodard, the District 5 representative, could not be reached.
“It’s the most up in the air I’ve seen it,” TSSAA Assistant Executive Director Matthew Gillespie said. “A lot of times we’ll have a pretty good feel about what the board or council is going to do on a majority of issues. On this one we just don’t know.”
The potential legal ramifications attached to implementing a complete split could be a contributing factor as to why the TSSAA is unable to get an accurate read on the situation.
“Any decision that’s made by the board and council, it’s always a possibility,” said Childress, referring to the likelihood that a complete split could lead to private schools taking legal action against the TSSAA. “Anybody can sue anybody, really.”
“I think it’s something to consider; I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Gilbert said. “But I don’t think you can vote based on fear. I think you have to look at the evidence that’s in front of you and try to make the best decision you can under the circumstances.”
It’s also possible that the majority of the council, like Luttrell, have already arrived at a decision, and simply do not wish to disclose it.
If Childress and his staff have their way, however, each member’s vote will be made public.
“One of the things that we’ve talked about with Dan Black, the (Legislative Council) president, is that the vote needs to be public,” Childress said. “There does not need to be a secret ballot, and we’ve requested that. You ask ‘all in favor?’ and ‘all against?’ You deal with it like any other proposal.
“Ultimately it’s not our decision — it’s (Black’s) decision — but I don’t see any way that he’s going to say, ‘Let’s vote by secret ballot.'”