TSSAA's playoff take hard to take

Annual MembershipAssociation / Dues / InsuranceLouisianaAAAAA $1,050AAAA $900AAA $750AA $600A $450Arkansas7A $1,5006A $1,3505A $1,2004A $1,0003A $7002A $5001A $350TennesseeAAA $250 $250AA $200 $200A $150 $150Kentucky$800-$1,400 depending on school sizeMississippi$0.25 per student (all students)GeorgiaAAAAAA $360 $625AAAAA $300 $825AAAA $240 $425AAA $210 $375AA $180 $270A $120 $220Amount taken from playoff gamesAssociation Pct.Louisiana 10Georgia 12North Carolina 15Arkansas 20 (1st round)South Carolina 20Alabama 24Florida 25Kentucky 25Arkansas 30 (after 1st round)Mississippi 30Tennessee 50 percent

In its first football playoff game of the year, McMinn County High School took in more than $20,000. The Cherokees, however, kept less than $5,000.

Bradley Central, the visiting team, will receive a check in the neighborhood of $5,100. McMinn, after paying for security last Friday, will get $4,600.

"Thing about that is if we're lucky enough to win on Friday [vs. Murfreesboro Riverdale], it might be enough to pay the bill for a trip to Middle Tennessee somewhere," McMinn coach Bo Cagle said.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association will receive a check in the amount of $10,500 and will get half the gate from every round-of-32 playoff game last week and subsequent games leading into the championship series Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Tennessee Tech University. In return, the TSSAA provides trophies/plaques to the participants and pays the officials and their mileage and meals.

Fifty percent is by far the largest amount taken by any association in the Southeast, 20 percent higher than No. 2 Mississippi. Arkansas takes 20 percent from first-round games and 30 percent from subsequent rounds. Georgia takes 12 percent and Alabama 24 percent, but Alabama last year shared a $1.2 million windfall with its member schools and waived last year's school dues for the 20th consecutive year.

Although administrators were reluctant to discuss exact amounts, Boyd-Buchanan might have made enough from its home win over Rockwood last Friday to finance its road trip to Oneida this week. That is about $800 for a bus, $400 for a pregame meal -- it's three-plus hours to Oneida -- and at least $100 for gas to take a smaller bus for team trainers, physicians, statisticians and other team personnel. Conversely, Rockwood might have made enough to pay for its trip to Boyd-Buchanan.

Silverdale Baptist was on the road to Hampton and spent in the neighborhood of $1,500 -- $1,000 for a bus and $500 for a pregame meal. On the return trip after a lopsided win, the bus pulled in at a McDonald's and the players paid for their own meals.

It isn't that coaches expect to fund their programs, although that has been done in the past. They just don't wish to flirt with bankruptcy. In responding to a request for an opinion on the TSSAA playing travel expenses for Sullivan South's first-round trip to Columbia Central, Baylor coach Phil Massey said he'd gladly surrender the Red Raiders' 25 percent share of the gate if the TSSAA would pay the team's travel expenses to Memphis University School.

"Nobody goes into the playoffs thinking they're going to make money," he said.

Everything fell right in 2007 for South Pittsburg -- playing at home each round to the championship -- and the Pirates cleared $15-$20,000. This year they played a first-round game at home but are on the road the rest of the Class 1A series.

Last week before that home game against Columbia Academy, Pirates coach Vic Grider said, "We'll be lucky to make $1,000," and there wasn't much of a crowd for his team's 76-21 victory.

This week, a trip to Gordonsville, South Pittsburg is estimating expenses of $2,200.

Last year the TSSAA made $776,525 from the football playoffs, down from the $803,356 listed on the association's 2010 financial report. All of that, according to association officials, was eaten up by catastrophic insurance fees, which are about $850,000 according to TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie.

Still, that 50 percent of the gate grates on coaches.

"They take too much percentage from playoff games. It's the highest of any of the surrounding states," Bledsoe County's Jason Reel said.

"[The] percentage TSSAA gets from playoffs [is] too much!" Central's John Allen added.

Their comments were echoed by many of the area coaches.

Tennessee's catastrophic insurance policy is provided by Loomis & LaPann, Inc., of Glens Falls, N.Y. The subsidiary of Glens Falls National Bank and Trust deals with 10 other state high school associations, but spokesman Greg Joly declined comment on fees paid by the TSSAA or a comparison of charges to the TSSAA with other state associations. Other states represented by Loomis & LaPann include Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

TSSAA officials like to counter comments about their 50 percent footballl playoff take with the association's membership dues, which are $250 for AAA schools, $200 for AA and $150 for Class A, but those dues are doubled for catastrophic insurance, meaning they actually are $500, $400 and $300. Too, the TSSAA charges each school $5 per football player, also for catastrophic insurance.

Georgia's membership dues are similar. With insurance dues included, AAA schools pay $585, AA schools $450 and Class A schools $340. Mississippi charges 25 cents student.

Too, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina pay mileage for the traveling teams in the playoffs, Georgia up to $5 per mile one way and Alabama up to $7 per mile one way.

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