Gossett: TSSAA Board of Control likely to deny Signal Mountain High School appeal

Gossett: TSSAA Board of Control likely to deny Signal Mountain High School appeal

October 19th, 2011 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Columns

Tim McClendon, a senior running back/line backer for Signal Mountain High School, stands on the sideline as teammates practice at their home field. McClendon is under investigation by the TSSAA for living in a district outside of that which feeds SMHS making him uneligible to play on the team.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

POLL: Do you agree with the TSSAA decision?

When Signal Mountain makes its appeal to a three-member TSSAA Board of Control panel Thursday, odds are that the TSSAA ruling will be upheld.

The TSSAA ruled on Oct. 7 that the Eagles had used an ineligible [out of zone] player and vacated six wins. The ruling virtually eliminated any hopes the 2010 Class 2A state champions had of participating in their first Class 4A playoffs although they were 6-1 at the time that ruling was handed down.

Signal Mountain officials maintain a difference in interpretation. They believed Tim McClendon was eligible because he had been granted a hardship by the Hamilton County Department of Education to attend their school. They listed his address correctly (he lives in Brainerd) and then entered Signal Mountain as his zone on the TSSAA's online eligibility form.

However, the TSSAA has maintained, probably for eons, that zoning hardships are not automatic approval for athletic participation.

Now, right or wrong, how many times has an appeal been overturned? And if it becomes an issue for the courts, how many legal battles has the TSSAA lost? Answer: Very few and never. Even the case by Brentwood Academy, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court, finally came out in the TSSAA's favor.

Signal Mountain folks, those who have been around the football program, have to wonder if the TSSAA's decision -- or its vigor in pursuing the incident -- was prompted by a disagreement Eagles coach Bill Price had with TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress at the state championship series in Cookeville last December or by Signal principal Tom McCullough's decision to ignore a TSSAA "suggestion" that Price be suspended for one game after a fight broke out during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against Soddy-Daisy.

I don't know how McCullough, Price and their advisers will present their case Thursday, and I don't know if they'll ask for another appeal if this one's turned down or even if they'll go so far as to petition the courts for relief.

What I do now is that I'll be glad when the situation is resolved.

* For those Signal Mountain opponents concerned about the Eagles wins that might affect their playoff standings, there is good news.

According to the TSSAA's Matthew Gillespie, Signal's record will be complete for playoff system calculations. For example, Tyner lost to the Eagles but when it comes time to calculate opponents' victories, all of Signal's wins including those vacated by the TSSAA ruling of an ineligible player will be used.

* Is there ever a good time for a loss? If there is, then it was last Friday night for Boyd-Buchanan, which lost its unbeaten streak in a 26-10 loss to rival South Pittsburg. However, the loss was not a district game and could serve as a means for the team to rededicate itself for the final district game against Copper Basin and a serious playoff run.

If there was a cost, it might be host role for a potential Class 2A postseason matchup with midstate power Trousdale County.

Boyd probably extended South Pittsburg enough to aid Polk County coach Derrick Davis, who'll take his team to South Pitt this week in what is becoming another strong area rivalry.

* McCallie had two backs -- Daniel McClure and Samir Usman-- with 100 rushing yards and the Blue Tornado shut out Pope John Paul II for three quarters in a 45-7 victory. McCallie, which ran for 279 yards, hosts Montgomery Bell Academy this week. MBA is coming off a lopsided loss to Ensworth.

* Offering a correction. I made two mistakes last week regarding an unsportsmanlike conduct call. I mentioned Sequatchie County's Indians when I meant to write Polk County and/or Wildcats. Apologies to coach Chad Barger and the Indians.

* Does McMinn Central, 1-8 this year and already an improvement over 2010 (0-10), have a chance Friday? The Chargers are playing at Stone Memorial (3-5). However, Stone Memorial had a three-game win streak before losing 51-0 to Alcoa last Friday.

* Hixson's Clarencio Holmes was as close to healthy Friday as he has been in a month (sprained AC joint), and he got 107 rushing yards but the Wildcats lost their sixth straight game after starting out with a 3-0 bang. Holmes had both of Hixson's TDs against East Ridge, one on an 11-yard run and another on a 45-yard interception return.

* So how does your district shape up?

It looks like 5-AAA is going to go down the final game of the season with the winner between McMinn County and Bradley Central winning the title outright. That's among the Class 6A teams. Ooltewah and Cleveland still have shots at the 5A field.

Current 6-AA leader Red Bank has its two toughest games the next two weeks -- against East Hamilton this Friday and then Tyner on Oct. 28. The Lions are unbeaten but East Hamilton is right on their heels with a 4-1 record. One of two Class 3A teams in the bunch, Tyner still has a shot at the postseason. The last couple of years the TSSAA has seen fit to take four 6-AA teams for the playoffs, so East Ridge, Brainerd and Central have to figure they're still in the running.

District 7-AA, because of Signal's vacated wins, is all but decided with Bledsoe finishing first and Sequatchie County second.

Polk County has a clear lead in District 5-AA. It's likely that Sweetwater, Sequoyah and even Meigs County could work their way in with Sequoyah going Class 4A and the rest 3A.

South Pittsburg and Lookout Valley are likely to advance from District 6-A and Boyd-Buchanan and Grace Academy from District 5-A. Boyd-Buchanan will be in the Class 2A playoffs and the rest in Class 1A.