published Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Signal Mountain High School considering an appeal after TSSAA strips football team's six wins

  • photo
    In this file photo, a child talks to an adult through a fence just before the start of Signal Mountain's season opening home football game. The Eagles were the 2010 State Champions for their division.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Poll
Do you agree with the TSSAA decision?

About the only thing Signal Mountain High School's administration has ruled out, at least for the moment, is asking for relief from the courts on the TSSAA ruling late last week that a football player was ineligible and the team's six 2011 victories were vacated.

School principal Dr. Tom McCullough said Monday evening that there were other avenues being explored.

"I have asked the TSSAA to reserve the right for us to appeal," McCullough said.

Following a Monday meeting of administrators and advisers that lasted until after 7 p.m., Eagles football coach Bill Price said, "I have no comment. I cannot comment at this time."

School officials may be deciding whether to appeal the TSSAA's decision, which was predicated on the student in question living in one school zone and going to school in another, or to ask for a reduction of the penalty or both.

McCullough said he hoped to move quickly, perhaps as early as this evening, to have a plan in place.

Meanwhile, Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne, a member of the TSSAA's board of control, called to say that neither he nor his coaching staff had anything to do with the Eagles' current situation.

"There are rumors out there that Sequatchie County turned them in. We did not," Layne said. "The first I heard about it was a comment from [TSSAA executive director] Bernard Childress at the administrators' meeting on Sept. 22."

If Signal Mountain does file an appeal, it will be based on TSSAA bylaw article 6, found on page 4-5 of the association's handbook, and "answers to frequently asked questions" on page 39. The school also may touch on the TSSAA's definition of a school district and its governing body and that district's governing body granting a hardship ruling allowing a student to go from one school to another in its district.

Article 6, Section 1 says, "Any school charged with violating TSSAA regulations shall be notified of such charges by the Executive Director. If a hearing is desired by the school involved, the Executive Director must be notified immediately in writing. Provisions will then be made for such a hearing and the school so notified."

Article 6 Section 2 says that hearings will be conducted by the executive director in the presence of two or more members of the Board of Control who represent the grand division of the state in which the school is located. East Tennessee is represented on the Board of Control by Layne and Morristown West assistant principal Mike Reed.

According to the TSSAA website, there is a vacant board spot that hasn't yet been filled and may belong to East Tennessee.

Childress told Signal Mountain administrators he learned of the possible infraction on Sept. 22, and school officials say they were not notified of the investigation until last Thursday, Oct. 6, the day that two TSSAA representatives visited the campus.

"Frequently asked questions" 2-6 on page 39 of the handbook deal with how a school makes notification of an appeal and if it wants that appeal heard by the Board of Control, if a special meeting of the board can be called, whether the executive director can be a part of the board's decision and whether a member of the board can vote on a matter involving the school he represents.

If Signal Mountain appeals and asks for an immediate hearing, it is possible that the school will ask that Layne recuse himself from the hearing because of the fact that Sequatchie County is in the same district (7-AA) as Signal Mountain and because of the aforementioned rumors.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

UPDATE: Signal Mountain will appeal TSSAA decision

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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onetinsoldier said...

What kind of things are they teaching the kids on Signal Mountain? Winning is more important than fairness or honesty? What whine to serve with when caught cheating?

October 11, 2011 at 2:15 a.m.
Livn4life said...

You know all who are involved in sports today need to make sure they are well versed in law because so many violations take place on so many levels it is a complete embarrassment to our society. How much more embarrassment will it take for Signal Mountain to just own up to it and move on? The appeals just keep it out there in the public eye. Follow the rules and you have no problems. When you get caught, hush looking for the person who turned you in to try and make it about them. Admit your mistake and be done with it.

October 11, 2011 at 6:07 a.m.
obviously said...

.....what is there to appeal? I thought it was all pretty much cut and dry?

October 11, 2011 at 6:36 a.m.
crow1033 said...

I guess that it isn't 'cut and dry' and maybe all the TFP spectators don't have all the information. Imagine? Not having all the information after reading a TFP article? Just because you don't like Signal Mountain doesn't mean that they are automatically guilty. If they have an opportunity to appeal this ruling, I hope that they do for the team's sake. Any other school would do the same thing!

October 11, 2011 at 6:59 a.m.
ldurham said...

Oh, please appeal and fight this, Signal Mountain. Keep this in the news for weeks, even months. Better yet, let the TSSAA find out where all your players have actually resided, past and present. And put all their "hardships" out in the open.

October 11, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.
bearhunter2 said...

hey crow1033 the school had a chance to talk with TSSAA. now the want a change to crawfish and change everthing they say again. just take the punishment and quite carpooling illegals up to your school.

October 11, 2011 at 8:36 a.m.
obviously said...

isn't Price's wife a Registrar at the Central Office? I think that is a red flag as well?

October 11, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.
orangenblack said...

Bottom line, every school that has success in sports "cherry picks" athletes! How many softball girls have been "relocated" to SD for that program? I dare say that even my program has "picked up" some players over the years. You don't win state championships in FB without a little help. RB was really good someyears ago, did ALL those players live in RB? Don't worry about it Bill, just come back and play hardnose FB and chalk this up on the board as a learning expirence! EVERYBODY that has been a winner has done it! I bet anything that some of Central, East Hamilton, and the Owls are in violation right now. Someone check em out, I bet you will be surprised! Go luck to the Eagles! See next year! Its been NICE having some competition in the area!!!!

October 11, 2011 at 9:19 a.m.
ENGLISHMAN said...

What you have to remember is, that whether the player was on the team by accident or added for an unfair advantage, the Punishment does not fit the crime. One player does NOT make a team. By vacating all the 6 wins you are punishing the other players who worked hard and played harder to get these wins. THEY did nothing wrong and the problem was either with the coaching staff or administration or both. If I had a son on that team, I would be crushed that he had given his all and played his possibly last year as a Senior, on a winning team that could possibly again go to State, and had it all taken away because of somebody else's error. I hope the punishment is changed and is directed toward where or how the error occurred and not at the innocent kids.

October 11, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
James101 said...

Price's wife works for School System and Chip Baker who is on the School Board is a BIG TIME Supporter of Signal Mtn School.. I hear all the the time from people that actually live up on the mountain " Everybody is out to get us " or " Nobody likes us ".. Well maybe its because of yalls We Are Better Then Yall attitude they have about everything and everybody... And last year when some of the guys got caught drinking before the State Game , of course they werent going to do the right thing and suspend those guys because they were ALL starters on that team.. Just at the end of the day most people dont like yall not because yall win or have a good program its just how yall represent yourselves to the rest of us by being snobs.. Theres an old saying , You Treat me with respect and ill treat you with respect...

October 11, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
chickendave said...

ENGLISHMAN I agree 100% there are those that are getting punished that have worked hard to get there. Question is how many of those knew what was transpiring? Don't you think they found it kind of strange that this guy appears out of no-where and boom. Deed is done and I think it's sad this good school now has a tarnished image all over trying to make it to the top so quickly. They are a good school-one of the best is the word around these parts-I wish them good luck in the future but I would take my lickings and move on. Draggin this thing out is probably not the best idea for the schools. My opinion-just saying!

October 11, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
whyus4 said...

Signal Mountain won there first state without this player! The problem I'm having with all this is his name should have never been mentioned period!!! Secondly, as orangenblack said there are several students/players at other schools illegal so you people keep saying! Just because you don't live on the mountain does not mean you are illegal thats the reason for the hardship. Everyone on the mountain are not snobs, there are snobs everywhere. Has anyone ever looked at the timing as to when this came out! He's not a hard kid to recognize why now...funny!

October 11, 2011 at 12:41 p.m.
spendy said...

I hate this for all the innocent players that have dedicated their whole summer & all the hours after school practicing. I see this at ALL schools where the coaches only care about winning & will not play other players b/c of their speed, size, etc. What do they learn from sitting on the sidelines?

October 11, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.
fpsub said...

He scored 5 touchdowns against orangenblack. But I guess everyone's cherry picking, including orangenblack (one would assume from his comments), so I guess that justifies it all?

October 11, 2011 at 12:45 p.m.
whyus4 said...

You people are unbelieveable! I know for a fact that theres a young man playing for another Hamilton County school. Who lives in GA and is a senior. The only reason it's not an issue is because the school is not having a winning season!

October 11, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.
jackets23 said...

Lets see, FYI, to clear up the confussion.... his brother still plays at Cleveland.... The student in question had no "hardship" paperwork filled out, they "forgot,".... we will not mention the small fact he played for LFO (out of state) last year and that he participated with Howard all spring and most of the summer which locks him into playing for either Howard or no one.... And on the other note of Sequatchie County remarks... they could care less... Signal has been doing this for the last couple of years... last years running back was from East Ridge, played at East Ridge and used the same address as this guy used.... FYI

October 11, 2011 at 12:58 p.m.
sunshine1 said...

Sequatchie county could care less? What a joke! Every other school in Hamilton County that feels threatened by being beat by Signal Mountain is all over this. Keep in mind that Signal Moutain is just a school that got caught doing this. I know for a fact that there are several other schools throughout Hamilton County who are breaking these exact rules. It was just a few years ago when Red Bank was in trouble for having an academically ineligible player who played the whole season. Let's not forget that Signal Mountain is not the only one doing "wrong". If TSSAA wanted to rule fairly, they'd be checking every single school and a lot more wins would be revoked from other schools seasons.

October 11, 2011 at 1:03 p.m.
jackets23 said...

they do check every school.... and the player that was ineligible had to sit a year before he could play. Sequatchie if I'm not mistaken is not in Signal's playoff bracket anymore since Signal decided this year to move up to play in the 4A playoffs....This is not nearly as widespread as the general public would like to believe.... nor do many coaches like to cheat just to win a few football games. You have to think... a coaches supplement is a small percent of what they make teaching... and under the new NCLB laws this could give the school a reason to let the HC go from there... so like anyone else would think who works... is it worth it???? most would say no.... a few wins would not be worth your job.... just a thought using a little common sense :)

October 11, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
sunshine1 said...

and a little proven fact that player did have a hardship.

October 11, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
footballmom said...

Signal Mountain did this to themselves...No one from ANY other school (disgruntled fan or not) filled out the kids paperwork.. Maybe it's just easier to blame Sequatchie because you haven't played them yet... who knows. You are fueling your own fire, learn from your "mistake" and move on!

October 11, 2011 at 1:33 p.m.
ElleEmMo said...

They seem(?) to have the right to appeal, and if that's what they want to do, then yah - go for it. But this has gotten to be beyond obnoxious. Admit the mistake - "clerical" or whatever - take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again and move on! You're accountable and responsible for your actions. If other schools are making the same "clerical error," then absolutely, they should be held accountable as well. And unless you have actual facts, and can further the conversation, just stop. Half-truths, lies, gossip, hearsay is so annoying. The truth ALWAYS comes out in the end.

October 11, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.
allears said...

Price's wife is listed as secretary at SMMS. How convenient.

October 11, 2011 at 2:09 p.m.
WHS1970 said...

At least SMHS should acknowledge the fact that they are cheaters,got caught and wont do it again.

October 11, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
chickendave said...

Hard to believe that TSSAA would make a decision on a whim. If they didn't have absolute proof what was going on was against the rules then I can't imagine they would have penalized the team since such a drastic move generally rocks the foundation of Tennessee High School Football. Yes you have the right to appeal but I always heard the more you stir it the more it stinks. It would be awful to have last years title stripped due to suspect misconduct they go aback and find. Onward and upward Mr Price. Onward and Upward!

October 11, 2011 at 3:09 p.m.
taytay2011 said...

This is not jealousy !!!!!! What in the world makes everyone from Signal Mtn scream "JEALOUSY" everytime something doesnt go your way, or you get caught at something, or you are questioned for breaking every rule possible ????? The reason other schools have something to say about it is because IT"S WRONG !!!!!!!!!!! There is no jealousy in that. And about "being fair"...how fair was it when the PARENTS of the Signal Mtn team punched and kicked the Soddy Daisy's kids !!!! Was THAT fair ????? It's not about being jealous or fair towards Signal Mtn...it's about doing the right thing...ALWAYS. It's really not that hard to do the right thing, give it a try. I bet your still a good football team even without all the lies, cheating and violence from the parents.

October 11, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.
SignalGolfer said...

I have read comments on articles about SMHS for a long time. Often they make me angry (I am a fan of signal)but this time all I can do is shake my head. Most comments vilify Signal as the evil side here and that ONLY Signal cheats. That's not true.. Others surely participate in bringing in players. Frankly there are so many rumors and conflicting reports flying around that I don't know who to believe. I live on Signal and I'm not rich, I'm not a snob, I don't rub our victories into peoples faces. I hate the stereotypes and the hostility directed at SMHS and our mountain. I'll say this: Obviously for all of this to occur something wrong happened.. But there is plenty of sketchy stuff on the TSSAA side too. Why did they wait TWO weeks to begin the investigation? But why did this even occur in the first place? Is it a misunderstanding or intentional? I'm on the fence. But I definitely believe that if something sketchy happened we should be punished and if not then we should get our wins back. But either way, I think that there may have been a conflict of interest concerning the speed of the investigation and if anything, we should get the TWO wins that occurred between the Report and the Investigation.

October 11, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.
timbo said...

SignalGolfer.... News flash.....Recruiting by public High Schools is illegal.. It is also wrong. When players mysteriously move from a school 25 miles away and just happen to be a good football player it is usually recruiting.

Signal built a dynasty in one year. Signal Mountain Middle School is just a regular program. It is Signals feeder school. Hmmm..Does that look a little fishy?

There has been several strange stories associated with this new school. I wonder what else is under that rock.

October 11, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
lawstudent43 said...

If you aren't a part of Signal Mt., none of this is any of your business. The fact that so many desire to gloat and sneer at Signal Mt High, when you don't really know the facts of the case close up, shows you're just mean spirited little girls looking for an opportunity to spew out your hate. Little, spiteful girls is all you are.

October 11, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
lawstudent43 said...

Oh, and the good-o-boys who weasled in the back way to try and hurt Signal Mt.High students with accusations to the TSSAA, how weak. You're weak. You're weak, and snivelly, and you're cowards. These high school boys on Signal have bigger packages than you, because they get out on the field and win, while you fester in jealousy, curled up licking your good-o-boys' wounds. You're sickening. Grown men acting like little, angry girls. You're not men. No matter what happens from here on out, coaches on these other teams have proven what they are. Weak.

October 11, 2011 at 4:09 p.m.
lawstudent43 said...

why don't they investigate East Hamilton's coaches? Ted Gatewood pulled his old Red Bank pal, Jeff Fairbanks in to coach the Freshman football team, and they put Jeff Fairbanks in to teach the Bible class soley so he could coach with Ted Gatewood. But Jeff Fairbanks did not have a teaching certificate. He taught all of last year without a teaching license, just so he could be a coach with his buddy. Furthermore, when they put him in to teach the Bible class, the principal was warned that he was then having an affair. The principal told the informant to never write her again on the matter. She covered it up. She allowed Fairbanks to teach bible while cheating on his family and with NO teaching certificate, all so he could coach with Ted Gatewood. Yeah, let's just have a good hard look at these other schools!

October 11, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
ElleEmMo said...

Um, so if the player participated in Spring 2011 football practice at LFO, then he's automatically ineligible to have played this past Fall regardless of the residency issue - is that correct? Then it's a moot point it seems. Would he be eligible to play other sports at SM? I'm confused.

October 11, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.
sportygirl04 said...

I love high school football but it's times like this that put a sour taste in my mouth. First of all, let me just say that I do not believe that Coach Price had anything to do with this. I personally know Coach and I do not think for one moment that he would jepordize the future of the boys let alone the opportunity for the seniors to play their entire last year for just a couple wins. Regardless of what you hear, Coach Price considers each of those players family. Second, I just want to address some of the negative talk on these boards. Have we forgotten these are just high school kids playing a sport they love? The players on that team have no control over what happens in the paperwork. You may think that Signal got what they deserved but you can't hold these boys accountable. I have been to several games that Coach Price has coached over the past years and his players have always exemplifed good sportsmanship. Coach Price and the players have no control over how the parents/fans act. Some of you may need to "vent" your happiness over Signal being stripped of their wins but please remember what is at the base of this....just high school boys wanting to play football. It is my hope that TSSAA overturns their ruling.

October 11, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
jy2477 said...

even if he did live in the right area to attend signal mnt school the player in question still took spring practice at LFO high school then played this fall at SMHS that itself is a TSSAA violation and made him eneligable he must have a one year waiting period before playing for signal

October 11, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
RTRbama said...

you guys don't know anything. so stop talking crap unless you live on signal and actually know what's going on. there's so many rumors that everyone is getting facts and rumors mixed up. so if you don't know the fact then shut your mouth and mind your own buisness.

October 11, 2011 at 9:42 p.m.
mtndad said...
 I'm just curious, if this young man had moved from California or North Dakota or you pick the State, where he had only played 1 game of high school football as a junior before having a season ending injury, and let's just say he went through spring practice before moving to Chattanooga, Would that be an issue?  I think not.  If not, then why is moving from Georgia under the same circumstances an issue.  Last time I checked, Georgia was a different State. I understand the argument that he lived in Brainerd, that is a different issue entirely, but I don't think the fact that he played in a different state should disqualify him. 
Just for arguments sake, let's just assume that after they had moved to Chattanooga (from California or state to be determined by you) his parent/guardian had found that a particular school had programs that fit that childs academic needs.  During this trying economy and the availability of affordable housing in this schools neighborhood, they could not afford to move again so they applied for and recieved a hardship waiver from the County Education System to attend said school. 
 The young man wanted to try to play football again so the coaches applied to the appropriate State organization which approved his elgibility to play.  
 Would you not assume that approval from the appropriate County and State Agencies was enough to let him play? 
 The home address submitted was is no way falsified, there was no intent to mislead anyone as to where he lived.  Is there no due diligence necessary from the State Agency that approved him in the first place.  Shouldn't they be required to verify information before issuing approval.  If they had done their job in the first place, this situation would never have occured.  
 With the online  technology we have available today, there is no excuse for not knowing where he lived or what zone he lived in prior to approval. What ever happened to trust but verify.  In my occupation, every application is underwritten for correctness and compliance.  If it is not completed correctly, it is rejected.
 You would think a governing body such as the TSSAA would employ similar practices.
October 11, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.
fpsub said...

ElleEmMo, the TSSAA considers football to be what they refer to as a big 4 sport which includes football, basketball, track and field, and baseball/softball. If you have competed in one of those sports at another school in the past year with out a corresponding significant move in residence into a new school zone, you're ineligible for any of those sports at the new school. He could however play tennis, golf, or bowl legally.

October 11, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.
ElleEmMo said...

Got it, fpsub. Thanks for the clarification!

October 11, 2011 at 11:56 p.m.
James101 said...

Sportygirl , you wear thongs?

October 12, 2011 at 8:14 a.m.
asignalperson said...

Okay everyone let's please get the facts straight. Tim goes to Signal Mountain High School. He has been here all year. He plays on a team just like any other student at any highschool can. Now they have vacated all 6 wins, knowing that there was a problem for several week beforehand. That is wrong. You may try and say that isn't true, but that is FACT. So the question here really is are you going to take away wins that were earned by a team (Not a single individual) Those boys work themselves to death, and now they have had all that time and effort taken away from them. So if everyone would stop bashing Signal it would be appreciated. It is simpley childish. I am not saying we are the best, or that everyone is jealous because that isn't true. This is not how people should treat one another. In my opinion if you don't have anything nice to say please don't say anything at all.

October 12, 2011 at 2:28 p.m.
James101 said...

He PLAYED in ALL of those games so no matter if its one or a group of players they are deemed not eligible to be playing and there for have to have those games taken back.. Even if the player or players werent starters but entered the game or games at some point thats still breaking the rules ( no matter how unfair it is ).. And Signal wont win this matter , look at how many years Brentwood Acd fought the TSSAA and it didnt matter.. Signal Mtn Residents , yall need to decide if the school wants to be public or private.. Because for awhile the school has tried to be both and thats where schools get into trouble.. If you go Private then you can do anything you want to a degree but if you stay public there are stricter zonin laws and etc..

October 12, 2011 at 2:44 p.m.
chattlady said...

Why is there any surprise that a Brainerd kid was playing for Signal Mountain? The rules are broken and bent all the time. Teachers and principals are notorious. It all depends on who you know. Hamilton County public education is rife with politics. The rules are for the common people. A couple of years ago, for example, Lee McDade’s nephew who lived in Ooltewah attended Lookout Valley in order to play baseball for David Dinger. So really a student should be able to attend any public school he wants to—the only rule should be that he or she should provide his or her own transportation.

October 14, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
mountainnewby said...

Moved up here from another state about a year ago so this post is rather late. I wish I ran upon this before making the decision to spend the $$$ on a house in Signal Mountain. I came in as a job transfer and my kids were not recruited. However, I have learned rather quickly that the "key" players on these teams are either from one or two places. One, the "good ol boys" network or recruited from out of zone areas. You can see the "good ol boys" network at play with the way they choose their middle school teams, which unfortunately weeds out good atheletes at a young age...ones who live on the mountain. One of the results of that is the recruiting of players off the mountain for high school sports. Most ethical coaches wouldn't take a job where their own children will play for teams they coach. It opens up a host of problems from other parents. In most circles, it's called a "conflict of interest". It's not just football or baseball because at a recent clinic up here on the mountain, little girls were told if the didn't step up ther softball skills they would "bring people in" from other places. The result....a bunch of pissed off moms. Ask the youth sports league up here how their softball enrollment is this year. I quote from a recent email from the SMGSA league president to the parents. "I will let everyone know that I am a little concerned with the turn-out this year. It is much lower than it has been in a long time, so if anyone knows of any girls under the age of 12 who would like to play, but think they have missed the deadline for registration, we can still make room for them." The message to current SMMHS AD and coaches.....CHANGE is coming because it is evident you lack the backing of the overall community when it comes to the way you select and run your sports programs!

March 5, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
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