Marion County assistant principal and athletic director Larry ZieglerPhoto by Leigh Shelle Hunt
Marion County High School will not hold spring football practice or scrimmages after admitting it violated the TSSAA rule on offseason workouts.
According to Marion County assistant principal and athletic director Larry Ziegler and TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, besides lifting weights and conditioning, the Warriors went through several weeks of workouts in which coaches instructed players on formations and plays and had a football on the field during the demonstrations.
Having a ball and going over formations and plays technically constitute an official practice under TSSAA rules. While teams can conduct spring practice any time from January to May, once practice officially begins those teams have 15 days to conduct no more than 10 organized practices.
Ziegler took responsibility and, after discussing the matter with TSSAA officials, offered the self-imposed punishment to call off spring practice in pads and the two scrimmages that had been scheduled.
The Jasper school went through a coaching change after last season, naming Mac McCurry to replace Troy Boeck in January. McCurry has been a head coach at Marshall County and Moore County previously, and he worked as Signal Mountain's defensive coordinator last season.
"I hate it for Coach Mac and all the boys," Ziegler said. "With a new coach, there's just a lot of excitement and everybody is anxious to get started. As athletic director I accept full responsibility for it. We could have denied it, but we wanted to be aboveboard. It was a mistake, but nobody was trying to deceive anybody. I should have done a better job making sure everything was done by the rules."
By self-imposing sanctions and cooperating with the TSSAA, Marion avoided additional penalties.
Marion is the state's second program in the last week to have spring practice taken away after admitting to conducting more than conditioning for longer than is allowed. Lebanon High canceled its spring practice and scrimmages earlier this week when it was determined it had gone over the allotted number of permissible practices by six.
"We aren't sure exactly how many days Marion conducted practice, but we know it happened over the course of more than a month," Childress said. "We had several reports that besides weightlifting and conditioning, they were running through plays on the field for several weeks, and the number of times that had happened is what constituted the violation.
"We do appreciate Coach Ziegler being up front with us and working with us to resolve the matter. We felt like since they had violated the practice rule, taking practice away was the right call. They won't be allowed to go out in pads or do anything other than weightlifting, and as far as the TSSAA is concerned, they've had their spring practice and the matter is closed so long as there are no future violations under this coaching staff."
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 ...