How many more years are non-scholarship private schools that are in Tennessee's Division I with public schools going to stay, or be allowed to stay?
The discreet word on the street is that public schools in Knoxville are beginning to feel the private school heat/competition and may soon join the majority of public school coaches in the southeastern and middle parts of the state in an ongoing clamor for a true public/private split.
There are rumblings that it could happen prior to the 2015-16 school year.
I'd be happy, on one hand, as a coach to forego the handicap of playing up at least one division, as do Boyd-Buchanan, Chattanooga Christian, Grace Academy, Silverdale Baptist and others. And if I was a coach at one of those schools I'd be more than mildly interested in a six- or seven-team DII-A (private school) local region. As I recall, the biggest previous deterrent was the amount of travel.
I believe that as a Division II-A or coach, I'd be shed of most recruiting limits and financial aid could suddenly become a valuable tool.
So public school coaches should be certain that the true public/private split is what they really want.
Look at the growth. Grace Academy's physical plant is busting at the seams. CCS has a new artificial-turf field for soccer and football, and a new softball field and there are plans for a new football/athletics building and lights for the baseball field. Boyd-Buchanan is contemplating a multi-purpose turf field and Silverdale has an unbelievable athletic complex (that's paid for) and is one of a handful of unbeaten football teams. Notre Dame already has added a baseball field and new gym with classrooms and weight-training facilities.
I'd be willing to wager too that not long after such a split, one would see fulltime 8 to 10 man high school coaching staffs and four-man staffs at the middle school level.
The biggest question these schools face if they go willingly from DI to DII is filling schedules and they'd probably travel no more than they do now. And then how much money is needed to let a few more students into their classrooms.
• Has McMinn County left the cast of the Walking Dead and jumped suddenly back into the playoff picture? The Cherokees came up with a big win Friday at Bradley Central and still have games remaining with Walker Valley and Ooltewah. They'd likely be a fourth or fifth pick out of 5-AAA but could be the top pick for the Class 6A playoffs ahead of Bradley, Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy.
The others in the bunch are battling to establish Class 5A playoffs pecking order with Ooltewah and East Hamilton currently ahead of Cleveland. That's why there will be so much hype over this week's Cleveland-Ooltewah game. Cleveland lost to East Hamilton which lost to Ooltewah.
East Hamilton, meanwhile, will have its hands full while making its first trip to Evensville. The Hurricanes are tackling District 6-AAA leader Rhea County. But the rub here, if there is one, is that Rhea's lone loss to date is to Walker Valley.
It looks like the 7-AA championship will hinge on the outcome of the Signal Mountain-at-Sequatchie County game. A Sequatchie win could throw the district into a three-way round-robin tie between those two and Notre Dame.
The 6-AA title is Hixson's to lose but the Wildcats haven't yet locked up anything. They need another win, for sure, and will be keeping an eye on the Tyner-East Ridge game. Tyner is out of the championship picture but still very much in the playoff scenarios. East Ridge already has lost to Hixson but could finish 5-1.
The 5-AA championship is Polk County's although the Wildcats might have to share it record-wise with Sequoyah. They beat Sequoyah earlier and lead the Class 3A playoff contingent.
• Games to watch next week should be in Class A with Marion County and South Pittsburg battling for the 6A title and Silverdale and Boyd-Buchanan for the 5-A crown.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.