Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Board rejects proposed split

A much anticipated vote after over a year of debate on the classification of private and public schools by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) left high schools across the state in the same boat as before.
The TSSAA Legislative Council voted 5-4 to reject a measure that would have forced all private schools to move to Division II and public schools to stay within Division I during a meeting on Thursday, July 16, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Murfreesboro.
During Thursday’s meeting, the Council stated the high school association will have two months to hash through details and address the bylaws for a special-called meeting set for mid-September to “level the playing field” for schools in Tennessee.
“I’m not surprised about the way the vote went,” said Michael Smith, athletic director and head boys basketball coach at Unicoi County High School. “My guess is they didn’t want to do anything just yet and want to be able to play around with the bylaws.”
The TSSAA is expected to address different issues of the bylaws, including student employment, tuition for athletes’ siblings, recruiting issues and non-faculty coaches.
“My opinion is that if the TSSAA does change the wording of the bylaws, some of the private schools will have to move to Division II,” Smith said, citing the TSSAA polling different private schools on issues and 15 of the 24 schools stating that if those changes were to occur, they would have to move to Division II.
“That could always change,” Smith added. “They could stay in Division I, but they would have to adjust the way they handle things to stay within the bylaws and not violate them.”
Schools within the TSSAA have to sign a contract at the beginning of each year which states that they will abide by the bylaws. Any schools that break the contract can face penalties.
The total split between public and private schools would have put Unicoi County in an awkward situation in the future, according to Smith. In sports other than football, the Blue Devils and Lady Blue Devils would be in a different league featuring teams like West Greene, Chuckey-Doak, Greeneville, Grainger and Knox Carter.
“It would have been bad for us in terms of traveling,” Smith said. “So, we’re glad in that aspect that the total split didn’t happen.”
The decision to rush into a split could have also had negative side effects for all parties, including possible litigation from private schools against the TSSAA because the organization moved forward with the split before considering changes to its bylaws.
A split could still occur, but just for postseason. It wouldn’t affect this area as much, Smith also said, because no schools locally are classified as private.
“I could see a postseason split happening if nothing happens with the bylaws,” Smith said. “There could be a conference with four private schools and four public schools. They could have a normal conference schedule, but once district tournaments start, public schools would shift to Division I and privates go to Division II.”
The complete split is currently no longer an option, but could potentially rear its head back into the picture, even though that is a long shot, Smith also said.
Any changes that are made by the TSSAA would go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year.