Signal Mountain High School considering an appeal after TSSAA strips football team's six wins

Signal Mountain High School considering an appeal after TSSAA strips football team's six wins

October 11th, 2011 by Ward Gossett in Sportspreps

In this file photo, a child talks to an adult through a fence just before the start of Signal Mountain's season opening home football game. The Eagles were the 2010 State Champions for their division.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Tom McCullough. Photo by Katy Mena

POLL: Do you agree with the TSSAA decision?

About the only thing Signal Mountain High School's administration has ruled out, at least for the moment, is asking for relief from the courts on the TSSAA ruling late last week that a football player was ineligible and the team's six 2011 victories were vacated.

School principal Dr. Tom McCullough said Monday evening that there were other avenues being explored.

"I have asked the TSSAA to reserve the right for us to appeal," McCullough said.

Following a Monday meeting of administrators and advisers that lasted until after 7 p.m., Eagles football coach Bill Price said, "I have no comment. I cannot comment at this time."

School officials may be deciding whether to appeal the TSSAA's decision, which was predicated on the student in question living in one school zone and going to school in another, or to ask for a reduction of the penalty or both.

McCullough said he hoped to move quickly, perhaps as early as this evening, to have a plan in place.

Meanwhile, Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne, a member of the TSSAA's board of control, called to say that neither he nor his coaching staff had anything to do with the Eagles' current situation.

"There are rumors out there that Sequatchie County turned them in. We did not," Layne said. "The first I heard about it was a comment from [TSSAA executive director] Bernard Childress at the administrators' meeting on Sept. 22."

If Signal Mountain does file an appeal, it will be based on TSSAA bylaw article 6, found on page 4-5 of the association's handbook, and "answers to frequently asked questions" on page 39. The school also may touch on the TSSAA's definition of a school district and its governing body and that district's governing body granting a hardship ruling allowing a student to go from one school to another in its district.

Article 6, Section 1 says, "Any school charged with violating TSSAA regulations shall be notified of such charges by the Executive Director. If a hearing is desired by the school involved, the Executive Director must be notified immediately in writing. Provisions will then be made for such a hearing and the school so notified."

Article 6 Section 2 says that hearings will be conducted by the executive director in the presence of two or more members of the Board of Control who represent the grand division of the state in which the school is located. East Tennessee is represented on the Board of Control by Layne and Morristown West assistant principal Mike Reed.

According to the TSSAA website, there is a vacant board spot that hasn't yet been filled and may belong to East Tennessee.

Childress told Signal Mountain administrators he learned of the possible infraction on Sept. 22, and school officials say they were not notified of the investigation until last Thursday, Oct. 6, the day that two TSSAA representatives visited the campus.

"Frequently asked questions" 2-6 on page 39 of the handbook deal with how a school makes notification of an appeal and if it wants that appeal heard by the Board of Control, if a special meeting of the board can be called, whether the executive director can be a part of the board's decision and whether a member of the board can vote on a matter involving the school he represents.

If Signal Mountain appeals and asks for an immediate hearing, it is possible that the school will ask that Layne recuse himself from the hearing because of the fact that Sequatchie County is in the same district (7-AA) as Signal Mountain and because of the aforementioned rumors.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

UPDATE: Signal Mountain will appeal TSSAA decision