published Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Cook: What the TSSAA can never take away

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association delivered its punishment last week: along with paying a $100 fine, Signal Mountain High School must also write a letter to each of the six schools it previously defeated, acknowledging it played an ineligible student-athlete.

The TSSAA also handed SMHS the bill for all travel costs incurred by TSSAA board members during its trip to Murfreesboro. (Think anyone ordered extra dessert on that ticket?)

The letter will be brief, probably signed by school Principal Tom McCullough. But it makes me wonder: What would happen if other folks involved in this story hacked into the SMHS computers and forged their own letter?

* * * * *

Dear Notre Dame High,

We vacate our win from earlier this season. The TSSAA is never to be questioned. The TSSAA is always right. Don't ever challenge us ... I mean ... them.

Like it or leave it,

— B. Childress, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear Grundy County High,

We vacate our win. Since the cost of four football helmets would supply us with more art supplies than we've seen all year, we have one idea where you can spend the $100.

Don't forget about us,

— Every art teacher in Hamilton County, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear East Hamilton High,

We vacate our win. One way this problem could be solved in the future is through metro government. Think anyone in your area would be interested?

Onward and upward,

— R. Littlefield, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear Tyner High,

We must ... vac ... vac ... vac ... FORGET IT! I'm not writing this #@$& letter!

— B. Price, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear Bledsoe High,

Passes, punts, catches, hits!

Our win against you

We vacate!

Runs, jumps, spins, whirls!

This never would have happened

If Tim was a girl!

— Any group of area cheerleaders, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear South Pittsburg High,

We vacate our win from earlier this season. Man, I just wanted to go to school and play some football. I hate this mess.

God bless,

— T. McClendon, on behalf of SMHS.

* * * * *

Dear everyone involved in high school football,

I've known Bill Price for more than two decades. He's a good man. Sure, he cusses like a Mack-trucker and may want to reconsider how many points he puts on the scoreboard, but his players would lie down in the road for him. He's changed lives for the better. So have East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood, South Pitt's Vic Grider and Tyner's Wayne Turner, and many other area coaches.

They know how much our kids need the transforming power of athletics.

Not winning. But athletics.

Athletics -- not winning -- speak the language of character. Spine. Guts. Heart. Nobility in the face of defeat. Things scoreboards never record.

Athletics can take that bunch of broken-hearted kids on Signal (who've worked so hard) as well as the big-hearted bunch in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (who didn't win one game last season) and offer them some redeeming, transforming message.

I hope Tim McClendon grows up to become a teacher and coach. I hope he figures out the pearl of great price that athletics can offer.

Those are the things the TSSAA can never take away.

David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
rosebud said...

What a mess of a column. A good columnist might have spent some time doing some investigative work to reveal some previously unreported facts about the Signal Mountain scandal.

If this column was intended to enlighten, it fell far short. If the intent was to entertain, it bombed. It couldn't have been intended to educate, there was nothing new. Was this actually approved by an editor?

October 27, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.
riverman said...

I think Signal Mountain should abolish it's football program and take the money and build a shelter for all of David's homeless friends.

October 27, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.
KBill said...

I never read or heard anyone say Bill Price is or was a bad person. Simple fact, mistake or no mistake in paperwork, the young man was NOT eligable under TSSAA guidelines to play at SMHS. It was all well and good the Hamilton County Board of Education allowed him to attend the school as a STUDENT but the TSSAA determines a student's eligability in ATHLETICS. Just Like Signal, Dalton should'nt worry about who turned them in to their respective state associations. Worry about playing by the rules. Just because you made a "mistake" does not mean you get a "freebie". Learn from it and move on or just don't get caught doing it again?

October 27, 2011 at 12:47 p.m.
stoneface said...

How about this one:

Dear Signal Mountain students,

We apologize for breaking the rules of the TSSAA. We are very sorry you have worked so hard for the past few years preparing for this season, just to see it taken away by a group of parents who have placed winning before ethical behavior. Further, we apologize to you that we have been such poor role models and leaders.

Sincerely, the community of Signal Mountain

October 27, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.
btwjmwcpa said...


Get a life!!!!!!!

Town of Signal Mountain/SMMHS

PS; Thanks David!

October 27, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.
TheRedEyeFlies said...

These letters are riddiculous and turn the whole situation into a joke! Everybody is just jealous of Signal and what they have accomplished in just their third year of a varsity program. Playoffs or no playoffs they are still the greatest team in the area in my mind

October 28, 2011 at 12:13 a.m.
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