published Friday, June 20th, 2014

Chattanooga area TSSAA meeting looks at classification, split

Soddy-Daisy High School Principal Danny Gilbert speaks to area coaches and athletic directors Thursday at the Chattanooga Christian School gym about  a new proposal for how to classify sports teams.
Soddy-Daisy High School Principal Danny Gilbert speaks to area coaches and athletic directors Thursday at the Chattanooga Christian School gym about a new proposal for how to classify sports teams.
Photo by John Rawlston.
  • photo
    Sequatchie County High School principal Tommy Layne, right, talks with Cleveland High School football coach Ron Crawford after a meeting with area coaches and athletic directors Thursday at the Chattanooga Christian School gym about a new proposal for how to classify sports teams.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

TSSAA Division I coaches and athletic directors from high schools in the southeastern part of the state met Thursday at Chattanooga Christian School to discuss football classification proposals and the possibility of a split between public and all private schools.

Sequatchie County principal and TSSAA Board of Control member Tommy Layne conducted the portion of the meeting pertaining to football classifications. Soddy-Daisy principal Danny Gilbert, a member of the state organization's legislative council, presided over the public/private-split discussions.

Layne made it known that there were three proposals for a two-year plan for Division I football state playoffs after the upcoming school year.

One is to keep the current plan with six classifications. One is to go back to the previous five-class system. The other is to place the 32 most populated schools statewide -- none of which would be in the Chattanooga area -- into one class and divide the others into five classifications.

Although there are those who favor it, including East Ridge football coach Tracy Malone, Layne said he thought the least likely scenario would be to go back to the five-class system. For one thing, the TSSAA would have to renegotiate its football-championship contract with Cookeville.

Layne's gut feeling is that the third, and most recent, proposal will be the one passed. As the representative for the greater Chattanooga area, he will cast his vote in August.

"I'd have to vote that way if that's what the majority in this area wants," Layne said. "Everything really hurts Sequatchie County and Grundy County, but Sequatchie and Grundy didn't elect me."

Gilbert noted when he addressed the coaches and ADs that the TSSAA is putting together a committee consisting of members from all parts of the state to take a look at the fallout of a public/private split versus leaving things the same. He then led a discussion on the topic.

"I just want to make sure we look at all aspects of it before we make such an important decision," Gilbert said. "The reasons are different in different areas. I don't envy the committee."

For 11 years Lookout Valley's Tony Webb has been a head football coach at a school with one of the smallest enrollments in the Chattanooga area. His stance is that not all public schools want a split, disclosing that he'd rather be in a league with some private schools with populations around 200 rather than with public schools with enrollments in the 500-700 range.

"We don't want to lose a Grace Academy and a Silverdale and add a Polk County or perhaps an Alcoa," Webb said. "I don't see how we benefit. I think that could be the possible undoing of your program."

Gilbert hypothesized that the topic could be deliberated at a meeting in December before a possible vote in March, but nothing has been confirmed.

"That's just my thinking," Gilbert said.

Should a vote to split pass, he speculated it would take the state organization a great deal of planning to set things in order and likely would not take place until the 2016-17 school year.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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