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Off the Field – Possible change on horizon (June 3, 2015 issue)

One of the hottest topics to come through Tennessee high school athletics recently is the debate of splitting all private and public institutes in two separate divisions.
An announcement on the issue is expected this summer after the TSSAA Legislative Council voted to host a meeting prior to the start of the 2015-2016 school year. No official date for the meeting has been announced from the organization.
The issue of public/private was addressed nearly 20 years ago. Back in 1997, the TSSAA announced that schools that were able to provide need-based financial assistance to students would make up Division II, while remaining schools comprised Division I.
Division II is currently made up of 49 private schools. Following 1997, certain private academies opted out of providing financial aid to stay within the guidelines of Division I.
If another split occurs, the current 23 private schools across the state competing inside Division I will join Division II.
Trousdale County and Lewis County high schools led the charge in March of last year with a proposal for the split during a meeting with the council. The letter presented to the TSSAA showed support of 31 schools, but according to reports from the meeting, public schools that attended the meeting but did not sign the letter that voiced public support of idea.
Over a year of planning has led the high school landscape to this summer – where another round of changes could be on the horizon. Changes could be OK’ed at the summer meeting, but would not take effect until 2017 after the current two-year classification ends.
While private schools have been shown to be beatable, they have also proved to be a thorn in the side of local public high schools over the years.
The issue was apparent this spring. After a regional classic between Unicoi County High School and Greeneville for softball, the Lady Blue Devils had to face the private school Christian Academy of Knoxville. The UCHS baseball team was tasked with traveling to Knox Carter.
The eventual Class AA baseball state championship came down to Carter and CPA – a private academy that helped end Sullivan South’s baseball season at the state tournament.
South narrowly made it to the big dance after escaping an extra-inning battle with the CAK baseball team in the TSSAA Sectional.
If you ask the teams, they won’t let the private-title of schools be their reason of losing, but the issue stays the same.
Homegrown talent can get you to the big dance, but the obstacles of recruiting and other resources of the private academies can be a tall task to overcome. It can be done, but it just seems to be much of a hassle.
With majority support, the split seems to be inevitable, but here’s to hoping we can put this issue to rest sooner than later.
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Four Blue Devils earned Three Rivers All-Conference baseball team honors following the conclusion of the 2015 season. UCHS representatives were seniors Nathan Derry, Sam McInturff, Will Hubbard and sophomore Shaddon Peavyhouse.
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In the Unicoi County High School softball wrap-up article that appeared in the May 27 issue, sophomore Neelee Griffith was inadvertently excluded. The sports department of The Erwin Record would like to apologize for the error.