Live coverage: TSSAA verdict on Signal Mountain High School extended until Friday

Live coverage: TSSAA verdict on Signal Mountain High School extended until Friday

October 20th, 2011 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Preps

Note: Please refresh this page for the latest updates.

[Update 6:25 p.m. ET] After nearly three hours of listening to Signal Mountain High School's appeal, followed by more than five hours of closed-door discussion, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's six-member Board of Control has not yet reached a verdict.

According to one TSSAA source, the board members will reconvene early Friday morning to continue their discussion and vote on the appeal.

Signal Mountain officials hope to regain at least some of six football wins taken away by the TSSAA, which ruled on Oct. 7 that the Eagles had played an ineligible student-athlete.

Thursday morning's Board of Control hearing took on more of a courtroom feel than most appeal hearings that go before the TSSAA. Attorney Clancy Covert handled most of the presentation for Signal Mountain, while TSSAA attorney Rick Colbert asked most of the questions, rather than board members.


The TSSAA rules on Signal Mountain High School's appeal.

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

THE STORY SO FAR

With a championship season on the line, Signal Mountain High School officials hope to regain at least some of six wins taken away by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association when its appeal is heard today in Murfreesboro.

The TSSAA ruled on Oct. 7 that the school's football team had used an ineligible player and vacated six wins from the Eagles, who were well on their way to the District 7-AA championship and an appearance in the Class 4A playoffs.

ALSO READ:

Tim McClendon's journey to Signal Mountain High School

POLL: Will Signal Mountain win its appeal?

2:07 p.m. We'll let you know the decision as soon as we get word. While we wait, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get the verdict the moment it happens.

11:54 a.m. What do you think so far? Leave a comment below.

11:50 a.m. Meeting is in a break.

11:48 a.m. Layne sits. Covert asks if the Signal Mountain should wait for the decision or will be notified later.

Chairman Reed, "This board will make the decision and your school will be notified."

11:47 a.m. Covert, "Mr. Layne I'm not questioning your integrity."

Layne interrupts, "yes you have."

11:46 a.m. Tommy Layne stands in the back of the room, visibly upset.

"This guy (speaking of Covert) here is questioning my integrity and my school's integrity. All the involvement I had was to speak with Mr. Childress about what I had heard. If you want to question my integrity you can come here and do it any day of the week."

11:45 a.m. Covert, "But (Patty Lane) was at those meetings and did not hear from Director Childress."

11:43 a.m. Covert concludes, but Colbert interjects.

"Just so everybody here is clear. During the last two weeks of September, the entire TSSAA staff, with the exception of secretaries, went on an eight-day travel to have administrator's meetings. From West Tennessee back. By my calendar, it was a week after that that they came to Chattanooga. The last administrator's meeting was Sept. 29, coming back from West Tennessee. It's the next week, Oct. 6 when they come down to visit the school.

"I understand some concern over the timing, but you have a small staff with 390 member schools and they're spread out. Signal Mountain is not their only school to be concerned with."

11:41 a.m. "The long and the short of it ladies and gentlemen, there's a lot of vagueness, a lot of gray in that definition. According to your definition, he's ours. He's eligible to play. All we're asking for is to take the time to look at the definition and change it. To single out Signal Mountain is a problem because I would dare say our interpretation is the same as a lot of other schools.

"This kid is thriving academically and doing well athletically. We thought he had potential, as a student to graduate."

11:40 a.m. "If Director Childress and Tommy Layne are at an administrator's meeting on Sept. 22, why couldn't they, as a courtesy, call Patty Lane and tell her there were questions and that they may want to hold Tim McClendon out? "The school most likely to benefit by Tim McClendon being ruled ineligible is Sequatchie County (where Tommy Layne is principal). We're both in the same district.

11:38 a.m. There is such a different feel than other appeal hearings I have attended, more like the two attorneys are speaking to each other. Very little interaction from the Board members or TSSAA employees.

11:37 a.m. I am sitting directly behind Colbert, about two feet away, Covert is making his statement almost exclusively to Colbert, who is nodding as Covert speaks.

11:35 a.m. Covert now reading down the checklist of what Coach Price filled out online and why they felt he was eligible.

"According to those rules, again, we stand on what we submitted."

11:34 a.m. Covert, "Our position is, he (Tim) did have a bonafide change of address. Once he moved, he did have the right to petition for a hardship. It's nothing through our school, it's through the Board of Education."

11:32 a.m. Covert, "I'd like to say a few closing marks if that's possible?"

Chairman Mike Reed nods. TSSAA attorney Rick Colbert says, "Sure."

11:30 a.m. Patty Lane, "Basically we have a bull's-eye on our back. A lot of people are, I don't know if you want to say jealous, but we have a large amount of good athletes that decided to stay home (on the mountain) instead of going to Notre Dame, Baylor, McCallie.

"My question was, why didn't anyone let us know there was a question about Tim's eligibility on Sept. 22, when the TSSAA was notified? We didn't get the phone call until two weeks later. I wonder why we didn't get that phone call as a courtesy?"

11:27 a.m. Board member Steve Chauncy, "Is there any documentation from Hamilton County that states the hardship is approved?"

McCullough, "There is, but I did not bring that with me."

11:25 a.m. Colbert, "You understand you've got the question of athletic eligibility and Hamilton County's definition of a hardship to attend a school and they're different, right?"

McCullough, "Yes."

11:22 a.m. McCullough, "To be honest, the bonafide change of address was my primary concern. We probably would not have appealed this case, and no doubt even asked to add him had we not believed he was eligible. I believe if the Board denies our appeal, the language of that definition should be changed."

11:19 a.m. Colbert, "I just want to clarify something Dr. McCullough. You all have school buses that pick up and run to Signal Mountain?"

McCullough, "Yes sir."

Colbert, "When you have kids like Tim McClendon who are out of zone, do those buses pick him up?"

McCullough, "Our No Child Left Behind students are provided transportation. Tim is not under the No Child Left Behind."

11:17 a.m. Covert, "Academically was Tim eligible?"

McCullough, "I was trusting my staff to determine that. I was not that involved."

Tom McCullough. Photo by Katy Mena

11:16 a.m. McCullough, "Before the season started, someone from the Chattanooga police department called to say that someone was looking into one of our new football players. He gave me Tim McClendon's name. I had a lengthy discussion with Tim's mother. The concern was, 'where does Tim live?'. If someone at the police department was asking where he lives, I felt it was on me to determine where he lived."

11:15 a.m. McCullough recounts how he met Tim McClendon.

Covert, "When a hardship is granted by Signal Mountain, what is your understanding of what that entails?"

McCullough, "I'm asked about that frequently. Mostly by parents wanting to know how to get their children to Signal Mountain. It's not my decision to make."

11:14 a.m. Dr. Tom McCullough is reintroduced

Attorney Covert makes a joke about Dr. McCullough having been in education longer than he has been alive. There are chuckles in the audience, but none of the Board members smile.

11:13 a.m. Colbert, "There are school zones that are geographically established?"

Baker, "Yes. As a baseline. There are magnet schools and hardships and other exceptions."

Colbert, "If I bought Ms. McReynolds' house and had high school-aged children, they would be zoned for Brainerd?"

Baker, "Yes."

11:10 a.m. Colbert, "The reason why Tim McClendon had to go through the hardship process is because otherwise he would have to attend Brainerd?"

Baker, "That is correct."

11:07 a.m. We have now surpassed the two-hour mark of the meeting.

11:06 a.m. When Colbert speaks, the entire Board of Control and all TSSAA employees stop reading their forms and look directly at him, paying full attention to his questions.

11:05 a.m. None of the Board of Control members ask questions. TSSAA attorney Rick Colbert does.

Colbert, "I can't look to find information on how to handle a hardship?"

Baker, "No sir. It's my understanding each case stands on its own merit."

Colbert, "Is there a formal, written process?"

Baker, "I've never seen any."

11:03 a.m. Covert, "Are hardships an isolated thing?"

Baker, "We have about 41,000 students in the county and about 1,000 hardships per year."

Name: Chip Baker, Hamilton County Board of Education District 2

11:02 a.m. Chip Baker, a 12-year member of the Hamilton County Board of Education (representing District 2, which includes Signal Mountain) is now introduced

11 a.m. Back row of the room from right to left, Chip Baker, Shane Roberson, Tim McClendon and his mother. Middle row Bill Price and his wife Debbie and an unidentified attorney. Front row, Dr. Tom McCullough, Patty Lane.

10:58 a.m. Covert, "Was that the first notification you received of any problems?"

Lane, "That was it."

No further questions

10:57 a.m. Covert, "When did you learn they were coming."

Lane, "Dr. McCullough told me the day before but we didn't know the details."

10:56 a.m. Covert, "When did investigators for TSSA come to the school?"

Lane, "Oct. 6"

10:55 a.m. Lane was an assistant principal at Howard for eight years.

10:54 a.m. Covert, "Were you involved in getting him the hardship?"

Lane, "Once he's assigned to us as a student, everything about him figures in to our school data. Everything that goes as a part of a student being a part of the school. At that time I wouldn't have known Tim McClendon if he walked into the room."

10:51 a.m. Signal Mountain athletic director Patty Lane now being introduced

"The only thing I knew about Tim McClendon was what Shane told me about what a good kid he was and how he had been his mentor for years and they were trying to get him a hardship."

10:49 a.m. Colbert, "Did you look at the TSSAA bylaws definition of "territory"? Did you look at the bylaws before you made your mark (holding up the handbook of bylaws)"

Price, "No sir."

10:47 a.m. Colbert, "Did you mark there was a bonafide change of residence?"

Price, "Yes sir."

Signal Mountain coach Bill Price watches a game in this file photo.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

10:44 a.m. Colbert, "Coach Price, (pointing to a copy of the eligibility form) do you remember filling this out?"

Price, "Yes sir."

10:34 a.m. Chairman Mike Reed asks for a 10-minute recess

10:31 a.m. Price: "Tim had not played but two quarters of football and zero quarters in Tennessee. I told my coaches this will get looked at so let's make sure everything is done right. Him meeting all the requirements, it came back that he was eligible. If he had not been eligible, we would've gone through the hardship process. The address was never changed from day one. There was never any deceitful stuff done."

10:29 a.m. Colbert, "It seems to me, if I understood what I heard earlier, it seems that Ms. McReynolds (McClendon's mother) never lived at the address at the Meadow View address."

Price, "It's my understanding they lived in two places while in Georgia. They did live at both places in Georgia. Tim had also turned 18 at that time so I guess he could have lived anywhere he wanted to.

10:25 a.m. Price, "If the TSSAA says a kid is eligible, you don't have to file a hardship. We never got notification that he could possibly be ineligible until two weeks ago.

"The TSSAA investigators never spoke to me. I'm the one that filled out the form but I was not included when they came to the school to ask questions."

Colbert, "As I understand it, 10 percent of the student who attend Signal Mountain do so out of zone. And six of those participate in athletics?"

Dr. McCullough, "That's correct."

10:23 a.m. Bill Price: "A couple of weeks later (after filling out the form and submitting it) we received a fax saying the student was eligible to compete in all sports for the 2011-12 school year."

TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress sat back in his chair and began nodding as Price explained the procedure.

10:22 a.m. Bill Price is explaining the step-by-step process of filling out the online eligibility form.

10:20 a.m. Bill Price now being introduced

"Head football coach and teacher. I teach economics. Taught and coached for 28 years.

"Never been before the TSSAA Board of Control. I've filled out eligibility forms for 28 years as a coach.

"I met Tim this summer, in July. Shane introduced him to me. I took Tim to Dr. McCullough to introduce them.

"I filled out the eligibility form for Tim. There are always calls to make, to make sure you follow proper procedure. That's something you always do.

"I even coached at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 25 years ago. I know it's in Georgia.

10:18 a.m. Colbert, "Did you consider that the graduation testing would present a problem for Tim?"

Roberson, "I wasn't aware that they tested before a kid can graduate."

Board chairman Mike Reed, "Coach you have written five recommendations for kids, were they all athletes?"

Roberson, "No. One was a girl who was not an athlete. The other four were."

10:16 a.m. Colbert, "Who filled out the online form for the TSSAA?"

Roberson, "Coach (Bill) Price."

Board member Steve Chauncy, "What are your duties at Signal Mountain?"

Roberson, "I coach football and teach."

Colbert, "How long were you at LFO?"

Roberson, "Two years."

10:14 a.m. Colbert, "What is it that Hamilton County schools can do for the kids that LFO couldn't do?"

Roberson, "It all had to do with just the testing. Tennessee doesn't require the graduation testing to get a diploma. The graduation coach made it clear he wasn't going to get his diploma unless he passed the test. In Tennessee, so long as he passes his classes, he'll get his diploma."

10:13 a.m. Colbert, "What about DJ (Roberson)? Did you know him also? Where did his family live?"

Roberson, "The family lived in Chattanooga and moved to government housing. He was another kid that I stayed in contact with and noticed his academics were plummeting. I can't help that these kids are athletes, I just try to help them when I see a kid that needs to be helped."

10:10 a.m. Roberson, "He called me and asked what I could do to help him. He said he hated it at Howard. 'You gotta get me outta here Shane'. So I did what I could do to help."

Colbert, "When did you have the conversation with him when he asked if you could help him get to LFO?"

Roberson explains what happened at Howard, having a knife pulled on Tim and chased down the hall.

10:09 a.m. Again, no questions from the Board members. Only Rick Colbert, a tall medium-build man with graying hair and glasses and a deep voice.

How did you find out that he was going to come to school at Signal?

10:07 a.m. Shane Roberson: "I made it clear to Tim that there was a process he needed to follow to get to Signal Mountain, the same as there was when he went to LFO. I told him I would do whatever I could to help him because I want to see him succeed."

10:05 a.m. Most of the Board members spend their time reading over documents, not making eye contact with any of the speakers. Only briefly glancing up to look at who is speaking.

10:03 a.m. Shane Roberson: "In around March I knew there was a possibility of me going to Signal Mountain. I let Tim and his mom know I probably wouldn't be back at LFO the next year. Tim's graduation test scores were something I used to discuss with his mom that there would be a decision they needed to make. I was advised to encourage Tim to get back to Tennessee because of the difficulty he was having with the graduation test. I let Tim and his mom know I wouldn't be at LFO the next school year to help him with academics or his graduation prep."

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.

10:01 a.m. Shane Roberson: "It was in the works for me to get back to Signal Mountain. My kids go to school there, I live three miles from campus and there was a time I thought I would be the baseball coach there. I was contacted by Tim's mother wanting to know if it was possible to get Tim to Signal Mountain.

10 a.m. Shane Roberson: "I was at LFO for two years, last year being my last. I was making sure Tim was going to class, turning in assignments and acting like he should. I'm not his dad, but by most people around the school, I was looked at that way. Coaches and teachers would talk to me about him and I would call his mom with any concerns.

9:59 a.m. Shane Roberson is now introducing himself:

"I have lived on Signal Mountain the last 10 years. Tim has an infectious personality. He's a big clown. He would come by my room and I would tutor him in math and I would take him home. It became a regular thing where I would take him home to his mom's or grandmother's house every day. We used that time to develop a relationship and it gave me some credibility with the other kids because he was a popular kid. It gave me a chance to talk to him about life and his goals and we developed a trust and a friendship. I saw a kid who was longing for that and I felt a desire to foster that.

9:57 a.m. Signal's attorney was not introduced by McCullough as being an attorney. He said he was a Signal Mountain "resident". The attorney gave away what he does for a living by calling Rick Colbert "your honor". That got a chuckle from the Board as the attorney followed with "I guess I just gave away what I do for a living."

9:54 a.m. Colbert is now reading a passage from Ward Gossett's article on McClendon. Asking who Reggie Page was, and why he lived with him, since it's stated in Ward's story that he lived with Reggie Page. He's now asking McClendon who he lived with while attending LFO and if he moved with his mother and why his original move was denied because he wasn't a Catoosa County resident.

9:50 a.m. he meeting has more of a courtroom feel than any TSSAA hearing I've ever attended. Board members aren't asking questions. The questions are coming from Rick Colbert and Signal's side is being told mostly by an attorney (whose name was inaudible when he was introduced. I'll have to ask his name afterward).

9:45 a.m. Tim McClendon: "I was having trouble with my Gateway test (which you need in Georgia to earn you high school diploma). I decided my best choice was to move back to Tennessee so I could have a better chance of earning my diploma. My mom asked me what schools I was looking at, so we called Shane for help.

"I get better help, extra help in English and Math at Signal Mountain. I feel like the teachers are really trying to help me there."

In this file photo, Signal Mountain High School students excitedly wait for the start of Signal Mountain's season opening home football game on Friday. The Eagles were the 2010 State Champions for their division.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

9:43 a.m. Tim McClendon:

"When I was at Fort Oglethorpe, Mr. Roberson was a coach and my teacher. Coach Roberson would talk to me about life and what I wanted to do besides football. He asked me what my goals were.

"I played in one game at Fort Oglethorpe. I hurt my knee in the second half and lost the rest of that year.

"Last spring I attended one day of practice and then I was there for the scrimmage at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Coach Windham texted me and was saying some crazy things, so I showed up for the scrimmage. We just played against our own team. There were no officials there.

9:40 a.m. Tim McClendon is now introducing himself.

He is explaining how he met Shane Roberson at Orchard Knob.

"He was my math teacher.

"I played jayvee at Hixson. I didn't play ball at all at Howard. I only attended Brainerd one day, when I got jumped.

9:35 a.m. His mother explained that she had Tim enrolled at Hixson because they have better educational help than Brainerd.

Colbert asks McClendon's mother questions for nearly 10 minutes.

9:31 a.m. Rick Colbert asks, "where is Fort Oglethorpe in relationship to Chattanooga?"

TSSAA attorney Rick Colbert now grilling McClendon's mother with several questions about where she lived in Georgia, whether Tim would come home to Tennessee when she moved back or if he stayed in Georgia, etc.

Asking why Tim had a hardship to attend Hixson instead of Brainerd as a freshman, when he was zoned to go to Brainerd. And this was before any incidents had happened.

9:27 a.m. "Shane didn't approach us to get Tim to come to Signal Mountain. I went to him to see if he could help us get him to go to school there."

9:25 a.m. "Tim called me and was talking about a test he took at the school and said he was ready to come back to Tennessee and go to school there. He moved back home to Tennessee. We had a conversation about him going to school in Tennessee. We knew that Brainerd or Howard were not schools we want him to go to. We started to see if we could get him to Signal Mountain and started seeing what to do to make that happen before school started. I called Mr. Roberson to see if he could help us get a hardship to go to Signal Mountain. I gave Shane the authority to see what he could do.

9:21 a.m. Tim's mother says he did not return to Howard for his junior year, which was the 2010-11 school year.

"I was having marital problems and had a friend who lived in Oglethorpe Apartments and said Tim and I could come live with her. We moved there, in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and enrolled Tim in school there. He stayed there for the entire school year. Tim played in one game (football) and injured his knee in the second half. He tore his meniscus and required surgery.

"My husband and I reconciled and I returned to Chattanoga in December, but Tim remained at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.

"Shane Roberson hadn't coached Tim until this year. Shane was just basically there for us, helping get Tim to focus on getting his grades up to par. He's been helping with Tim's education.

9:19 a.m. Call Tim McClendon's mother, (can't tell if she said Alta Mae Reynolds) difficult to hear her first name

"I live in Brainerd. Tim attended Orchard Knob middle school where he met Shane Roberson. Mr. Roberson was not a coach, he was a teacher there. He and Tim developed a relationship when Tim was in eighth grade."

While she tells the board Shane Roberson was not a coach, she calls him "Coach Roberson".

She explains that Tim was "jumped" by five guys at Brainerd, who beat him up, kicked him and stole the chain from his neck. He then went to Howard High School.

There is paperwork from Brainerd administration, documenting the incident and reason for Tim's transfer.

9:14 a.m. Board member chairman Mike Reed asked Dr. McCullough to speak.

Dr. McCullough begins to familiarize the board with the school.

"For 50 years there was a middle school on Signal Mountain and three years ago we built a high school. Of our 1,330 students, about 129 of those attend out of zone. Half of those are out of zone through the no child left behind act. Six of those participate in athletics.

"There's a lot of pride in our community. Our parents are very involved.

When our school opened, the number of kids from Signal Mountain who attend a private school in Chattanooga dropped from 38 percent to 10 percent."

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.

9:12 a.m. There are 12-15 Signal Mountain administrators, coaches, parents, etc. Seated on one side of the room together. Bill Price and his wife, Dr. Tom McCullough, Chip Baker, Shane Roberson and Tim McClendon are all present.

9:09 a.m. The room is silent as board members read over the documents.

Tommy Layne is seated in a chair in the aisle in the back of the room, craning his neck to see what is happening.

9:06 a.m. Bernard is asking the board to look over the transfer rule and eligibility form that all schools must fill out online. Also a copy of Signal Mountain's online form that was filled out.

"I won't spend a lot of time going over that or our letter we sent to Signal Mountain. Those are there for you to look over and discuss and I will answer any questions."

"I want to take a few minutes to give the board the opportunity to look over the letter the TSSAA sent to Dr. McCullough and Signal Mountain on Oct. 7."

9:03 a.m. After the Board of Control cleared the room to meet privately for several minutes, the room was reopened and the meeting began on time.

TSSAA attorney Rick Colbert begins the meeting by making a statement.

"Tommy Layne and I met this morning and we agreed in fairness he would excuse himself from the meeting. He is sitting in the audience but will not be voting."

9:02 a.m. The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association is preparing to hear an appeal from Signal Mountain High School about a ruling delivered Oct. 7 that Signal would have to forfeit six football victories for playing an ineligible player.

Moments before the start of the scheduled 9 a.m. meeting, the members of the TSSAA board cleared the meeting room to confer among themselves. There has been no announcement when the appeal will start.

Normally there are nine people on the TSSAA. There will be six TSSAA board members that will review Signal's appeal.

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook.