Wooddale is back in the high school boys basketball playoffs.
But Melrose and Westwood are not. Their two-year postseason ban remains in place as a result of fights at the schools’ games last month.
TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress sent his updated decision to the administration from all three schools Friday. It came a day after a hearing with all four TSSAA’s Board of Control members from the West Tennessee grand division.
The high school basketball postseason is scheduled to start next week across the state. The start date for district tournaments differs from league to league.
TSSAA bylaws state that member schools are responsible for the conduct of their own fans and students at every athletic contest, regardless of where it may be held.
Childress cited the TSSAA bylaws that state in part:
“The principal of each school, in all matters pertaining to the athletic relations of his/her school, is responsible to this association. Administrators must realize that they have more responsibilities than the general public to understand the purpose of high school athletics and the principles behind the TSSAA rules, and they must maintain that level of understanding and purpose when dealing with the general public and students.”
District has other options to pursue
The school district, Shelby County Schools, has two options if it chooses to pursue a change in the punishments for Melrose and Westwood. It can ask for a special-called meeting with the TSSAA’s full Board of Control. Or it could seek legal relief and ask a judge to weigh in.
All three schools were involved in fights on Jan. 25 during or at the conclusion of high school basketball games.
Wooddale was playing at Melrose on its homecoming. Fairley was playing at Westwood at its homecoming. Fairley has also received a two-year postseason ban but has not appealed the TSSAA’s decision.
Childress indicated Thursday that he expects Fairley to appeal.
All four basketball programs received a two-year postseason ban and were fined $3,500 apiece on Feb. 1 in Childress’ initial ruling.
Athletes involved in the fights quickly dispersed. In fact, Wooddale’s team left the court and entered Melrose’ cafeteria to get away from it.
It was determined by Melrose and Wooddale administrators that Wooddale’s fans did not get on the floor. The basketball program will remain on probation for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. Wooddale’s fine was reduced to $1,500.
“The decision about how to address that incident is not a matter of punishing students for the actions of others or punishing school officials for matters out of their control,” Childress wrote. “It is about sending a strong message to the school community about what will and will not be tolerated in the setting of high school sports, a message that is designed to help secure the safety of students in the future and avoid repetition of the risks that the Jan. 25 incident created.”