published Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Signal Mountain to appeal TSSAA ruling today

With a championship season on the line, Signal Mountain High School officials hope to regain at least some of six wins taken away by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association when its appeal is heard at 9 EDT this morning in Murfreesboro.

The TSSAA ruled on Oct. 7 that the school's football team had used an ineligible player and vacated six wins from the Eagles, who were well on their way to the District 7-AA championship and an appearance in the Class 4A playoffs.

"Is the whole issue up in the air? We think there's enough room [for debate] where it's worth appealing," Dr. Tom McCullough, the Signal Mountain principal, said Wednesday afternoon.

TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said after the governing body's decision that athletic eligibility did not accompany a hardship granted to Tim McClendon, the player ruled ineligible, by the Hamilton County Department of Education.

McCullough believes McClendon's eligibility should be reinstated and at least some of the vacated wins returned to the football team.

An expected centerpiece in the school's presentation is the TSSAA's definition of an eligible transfer student as stated in its compliance checklist. In order to be eligible, the student cannot have competed during the previous 12 months in any sport sponsored by the TSSAA. The checklist also says a transfer student is eligible as a direct result of rezoning or reassignment of students by the local school system.

"Because it isn't cut and dried, I decided to appeal in order to support our students and our team," McCullough said.

The appeal will be heard by the association's Board of Control, a nine-member panel of school administrators from across the state. One position is vacant so no more than eight will be present.

"It varies. ... I'm not sure how many will be there," said Matthew Gillespie, a TSSAA assistant director.

Signal Mountain's appeal also could be directed toward a misunderstanding of the TSSAA bylaw that states that school boards set school zones. The school contends that McClendon became part of Signal Mountain's territory because of the HCDE hardship.

McCullough, who is to be joined by football coach Bill Price, assistant principal and athletic director Patty Lane and a couple of parents he declined to name, also is expected to point out that Childress was informed of the possible infraction on Sept. 22 but the school wasn't informed of an investigation until Oct. 6, the day that TSSAA staff members Gene Menees and Mark Reeves showed up at the school.

The principal also clarified the process schools use when filling out eligibility forms.

"Bernard said somebody clicked the wrong button. That's inaccurate," McCullough said. "You click bona fide change of residence [on the online form], but territory is not something you click [as Childress said]. That's not part of the process.

"I have also been asked why we didn't apply for a [TSSAA eligibility] hardship. You only apply for a hardship if you're denied eligibility. This student wasn't denied eligibility."

The HCDE granted the hardship to McClendon, who lived in the Brainerd zone, to attend Signal Mountain. McClendon last year attended Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe across the state line in Georgia and says he lived in LFO's school zone in the Oglethorpe Ridge Apartments.

At the time the TSSAA penalty was made public, Signal Mountain had a 6-1 football record. The Eagles lost that night, Oct. 7, to Polk County in a nondistrict game, leaving them with a 0-2 record overall and a district record with no wins or losses. They won last Friday over Chattanooga Christian, and they have one district and regular-season game remaining on Oct. 28 at Sequatchie County.

Gillespie indicated that the hearing could be as short as 30 minutes or it could be longer.

"It depends on the school's presentation and how many questions and discussion come from the board," he said.

After hearing the presentation the board is likely to go into executive session, a closed meeting, to confer and make its decision before adjourning.

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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shedidnot said...


October 20, 2011 at 8:25 a.m.
momjanrn said...

Hopefully fairness will prevail & not politics ! We have played by the rules, so I hope the TSSAA will also. GOOD LUCK EAGLES !! We love you !

October 20, 2011 at 9:44 a.m.
studentpress said...

Price, McCullough, Lane and Roberson all filed the right papers when they needed to. No one looks bad on Signal Mountain's part. The only people who look bad are the people who filed the complaint. Ms. Lane is right: people are jealous of Signal Mountain.

October 20, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.
madambutterfly said...

I just hope when Signal Mt. visits Sequatchie County that the rules of the game will be followed on the field; no cheap shots, fighting, or any shows of unsportsmanlike conduct. Everyone needs to remember it is a game. Regardless of everything that has happened, both teams and all coaches need to show class and just play ball.

October 20, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.
bearhunter2 said...

mnt people yiou should be a shamed of your coach and adminstration for recuiting this kid. there is enough tallent on the mnt already. you dress what 75 players and need out of zone help. how many of those 75 actulaly hit the field. so bring out of zone keep your own from playing and get 6 loses. not a good move. even if TSSA reverses decision look all the bad publicly. along with fighting over the summer and alchol problems your school has had try flying under the radar.

October 20, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
sra1952 said...

You mt folk, whom ever said that you accept, everyone who wants a better education, ask Scooter King, and his son, Colby, who's family has/had a hair salon, up there! After a semester, he was made to go back to his home school, at East Ridge, where he is a star baseball, and basketball player! Smoke them apples, and prove me wrong! Their is a MOM up there, that didn"t want her son to loose a starting spot on the baseball team!

October 20, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.
fpsub said...

Tell Scooter to move on the mountain if he wants his kid to go to Signal, rather than listing his salon as a residential address. At least that's one case where the administration made sure a kid was "in zone". Who cares if that mom stood up for her kid and others? And it's "lose", not "loose".

October 21, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
sra1952 said...

I'm sorry fpsub, last night I had a sore throat and fever, and realy didn"t care about my spelling! I will do better next time! Just checking, did I spell BIGOT ok?

October 21, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.
sra1952 said...

A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from their own! What you smhs folks are saying, is that you cherry pick your students. This huge 6'2", 240 pound star football player didn't move,so what is the difference? 5 schools in 4 years! And by the way I really don't care for Scooter either!

October 21, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.
fpsub said...

I'm well aware of the definition and spelling of bigot. Your original post actually sort of sounded like you think that Signal should be able to keep all of these good, out of zone athletes. I'm sure East Ridge is happy to get to keep Colton, and for the record, I don't really know Scooter. From your story, maybe a mom reported Tim McClendon too.

October 21, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.
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