The TSSAA’s five proposal approvals on Tuesday caused some concern on both sides of the private-public school split debate.
Those in West Tennessee weren’t as concerned on Wednesday after having a day to process it.
Jackson Christian athletic director Scott Gatlin said nothing that was approved was unexpected to him.
“The day they voted [on whether or not to split the private schools], someone made a statement that proposals needed to be voted on in reaction to the vote not to split,” Gatlin said. “So nothing that happened [Tuesday] was a surprise, and outside of handling a few isolated cases, nothing will change for us.”
Trinity Christian Academy athletic director Ken Northcut said one proposal that wasn’t passed would have affected students attending private schools from outside a 10-mile radius of the school.
“That one would’ve affected us, and we would’ve had to figure out what to do about that,” Northcut said. “But none of the others affect us at all.”
The TSSAA has weathered the debate for nearly two decades about splitting private schools from public schools because of the perception of an unlevel playing field. There are currently two divisions in the TSSAA with Division II being private schools who offer need-based financial aid. There are some private schools, like Jackson Christian and Trinity Christian, who remain in Division I and don’t offer financial aid to student-athletes.
The TSSAA’s Legislative Council voted on seven proposals to address the individual concerns raised in discussions by proponents for a split.
The first one was broadening the definition of financial aid. Students who receive financial aid through work-study programs will no longer be allowed to participate in athletics.
Children of non-classified employees of a school will also no longer be permitted to play sports. Classified employees are those who work at least 30 hours a week for at least 100 days a year but are not part of the teaching faculty.
“Neither of those have an effect on us right now because we don’t have anybody in a work study, and none of our athletes’ parents are non-classified employees,” Gatlin said. “We do have a coach whose child is in elementary school, but it will be a few years before we have to deal with that situation.
“I would like to see a clause placed in the ruling in which the child of a coach who’s a non-classified employee can still play if the coach has been in place for a given period of time like five years or something,” Gatlin said. “If a school is hiring a coach to get a kid, I doubt they’re doing it when the child is in elementary school.
“They’re probably doing it because the coach is a good coach.”
This ruling also broadened the definition of financial aid to include public schools who charge a tuition for out-of-district students.
The TSSAA voted to relax its limitations on non-faculty coaches. High school programs in Tennessee couldn’t have more than three coaches who weren’t school employees. That limit was removed on Tuesday, but the coaches have to be classified into one of four categories: full-time certified teacher, retired educator (with five years’ experience or more), non-faculty coach or classified employee.
“That’s a good change because Tennessee was one of two states in the country who had that limitation, and there are good coaches all across the state who are in other fields or work who could also be a positive life influence on a young person,” Gatlin said.
The wording for the definition of weight training and conditioning was added in which only students enrolled in regular attendance at the school may take part in training and conditioning that happens during the school year.
Student-athletes who transfer to a school where there’s already a coaching link (where they’ve had a direct connection with a coach) within the last 12 months must sit out an entire year before taking part in that sport. A coaching link is defined as attendance at an individual camp (and then transferring); playing on non-school (independent) teams (and then transferring to that coach’s school); transferring into a school where a former coach has just been hired; and transferring into a school where a former or current personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach is employed.
Gatlin admitted there will need to be some extra clarification for that rule as there are a number of scenarios that could fall under this restriction.
Both Northcut and Gatlin said neither school has considered making the move to Division II and don’t plan to unless they are forced at some point down the road to make that move.
“It’s our intention to stay in Division I as long as we can,” Gatlin said.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751