TSSAA sportsmanship bylaws do not apply to the July 16 skirmish between the Signal Mountain and Soddy-Daisy football programs, the TSSAA announced in a letter mailed Monday to each school's principal.
The incident happened at Signal Mountain High School at a passing-league scrimmage on the Signal Mountain sideline and included players, fans and at least one Signal Mountain parent.
The TSSAA said its bylaws "do not extend to events at practices or summer workouts." Therefore the TSSAA accepted the punishments suggested by the two schools, although it had obviously different views of the two proposals.
The TSSAA willingly accepted Soddy-Daisy's three-step self-proposed punishments, which included a one-game suspension of head coach Kevin Orr, requiring every player to miss one day of practice during a teachers' in-service day this week to help move furniture and prepare the school for the first day of classes and an assurance that Soddy-Daisy athletic teams would be more closely monitored in the future.
"It wasn't just a fight. It got extra ugly," Soddy-Daisy principal John Maynard said. "We wanted the TSSAA to know that we take those type situations very seriously. I had thought of suspending everybody involved, but there were so many players involved, it was impossible to figure out who was fighting and who was trying to be a peacemaker. The more I thought about it, I really felt strongly that Coach Orr is responsible when this type thing happens, so I suspended him from the season opener against Baylor."
Maynard went on to add, "The kids with 'SD' on their helmets can't be involved in a donnybrook like that. Where things went awry weren't in how Coach Orr handled it once it happened, but the overall atmosphere of the day that led to the fight."
The state association was less impressed with Signal Mountain's proposed plan. In a letter addressed to principal Dr. Tom McCullough, TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress wrote that "Signal Mountain High School did not address the seriousness of the situation."
That school's self-proposed penalty was to identify one parent involved in the fight and to prohibit him from attending any Signal Mountain High athletic event for one year.
"We felt like our issue was we were allowing our parents to get too close to the playing field," Dr. McCullough said. "When the kids got into it, the parents tried to break it up, but we'll never allow the parents to get that close to the field again.
"John [Maynard] had a different situation that he had to deal with. Ours was allowing the fans to get too close to the field, and we've dealt with that."
According to the TSSAA's letter, Signal Mountain submitted one report stating that two parents were identified as participants and had been prohibited from the school's athletic events for one year. But a follow-up report said only one parent had been identified.
"It has been verified that there were Signal Mountain players, coaches and fans on the field during the skirmish," Childress wrote. "It appears that the Signal Mountain High School administration did not hold the football coaching staff and players accountable for their actions. The coaching staff was in charge and responsible for the actions of their players. The administration chose, however, to ignore the fact that the coaches failed to provide the appropriate sportsmanlike environment.
"It is our opinion that the lack of action taken by Signal Mountain High School administration to address the seriousness of the situation did not set the proper tone needed by the total athletic program moving forward."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...