published Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Signal Mountain will appeal TSSAA football sanctions

  • photo
    Middle linebacker of Signal Mountain High School Tim McClendon tracks the offense of Bradley High School during the 7-on-7 Passing Camp at Signal Mountain High School on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Signal Mountain High School administrators filed an intent to appeal with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, but the school had not received a response late Tuesday afternoon.

The TSSAA, the state's governing body for high school athletics, vacated the school's six football wins last Friday after ruling that the Eagles had allowed Tim McClendon, an ineligible player, to participate.

That ineligibility ruling is based on districts in which the student lived and that in which he played. The appeal is based on the contention that those districts are set by the Hamilton County Department of Education and the HCDE granted the player a hardship waiver to attend Signal Mountain.

Signal Mountain Principal Tom McCullough reiterated his belief that the school had followed the rules.

"Although we have the greatest respect for the TSSAA, after careful consideration of the issues involving the use of an ineligible football player by Signal Mountain High School, we are exercising our rights and have asked the TSSAA for an immediate hearing," McCullough said in a prepared statement. "We stand by the information we submitted regarding the student transfer and believe him to be eligible."

He said further that Signal's primary issue is the TSSAA definition of school territory, citing Section 13b of the TSSAA bylaws.

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Should Signal Mountain win its appeal?

"It states that a student is ineligible unless 'the new residence is inside the territory of the new school.' However, the TSSAA defines territory as the 'geographic boundaries and bus routes of the area served by the school as established by the local board of education.' Due to a hardship request for this student approved by the [HCDE], the local board of education has established the territory for this student to include SMHS," McCullough said. "We are appealing their decision based on this premise.

"If the TSSAA maintains that board-approved hardships do not establish 'territory,' then there are numerous student athletes in Hamilton County and across Tennessee whose eligibility may be questionable."

TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said he had not seen the school's notification of its intent to appeal. However, he did respond to the reported grounds the school planned to use for the appeal.

"The [TSSAA] bylaws are clear as to what defines a bona fide change of residence which justifies a change in schools," Childress said. "School systems allow students to go out of zone all the time. It does not carry with it the right to participate in athletics."

Hamilton County Schools Deputy Superintendent Lee McDade was still principal at Lookout Valley when Signal's request was approved by the HCDE in June. He has been kept apprised of Signal Mountain's decision-making process.

"They told us this morning they were going to appeal, and we're all for it although we understand the TSSAA's side," McDade said. "We do not get involved in TSSAA appeals because individual schools do that."

Asked about the circumstances under which hardships could be granted, specifically the player in question, McDade responded, "I cannot comment on that."

When contacted Tuesday night, Eagles coach Bill Price continued his "no comment" approach to the appeals process but said his energies beyond the classroom were being expended elsewhere -- the team's Thursday night home game against Chattanooga Christian.

"We're trying to get ready for a football game, and I have tried to concentrate on getting the team ready," he said. "I want to make sure our guys are focused."

If this appeal is denied, there remains the possibility that Signal could seek a reduction in the number of wins vacated on grounds regarding notification of the alleged infraction. Childress told Signal Mountain administrators that he learned of the issue on Sept. 22 at an administrators meeting at Tyner Academy. Signal Mountain officials weren't notified of a potential problem until Oct. 6 when TSSAA staff members showed up at the school; thus the player ruled ineligible on Oct. 7 participated in two games after the TSSAA was notified.

"The [TSSAA] constitution does not limit the number of times a school may appeal," Childress said. "However, there has been no disciplinary action taken against the SMHS program. They were simply required to follow the bylaws."

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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nowfedup said...

Sure would like to see the "Hardship" that is mentioned. Seems to me during times when funds being cut, there is a much better way to spend them then "appeal" etc. How much will this REALLY cost? Never heard of any school really fighting this hard to get better labs, sciences, books etc, way past time to push football and other sports back behind the education TN really needs to concentrate as nearly at bottom of all states. Schools are to educate, not to ready students for college ball. Sorry for the reality check, but the whole sports thing is way out of control, USA will not get real wage jobs with a failing education systems, yes, competitive educated citizens more important then football. Time money invested in this fiasco can be better spent elsewhere, and just what is the "hardship"? Sorry state of education when students recruited and move about for football as HS levels. Jefferson and others insisted on public education as keystone for a free growing USA, and doubt they had sports as basis. But then TN is at bottom of education lists, so maybe sports is a priority, as to dumbed down to compete at intellectual levels.

October 12, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
ChattaVol06 said...

While I agree with you that sports have gotten out of control in high schools and colleges across the country, why can't you admit that sports is a way for some underprivilegded individuals to get a great education? Allow this story to play out and for SMHS to get the appeal that they deserve. Then the facts will be presented and you can make your final personal judgement on the issue. The Hamilton County Board of Education already agreed that Tim McClendon should be allowed to attend SMHS due to the "hardship." Signal Mtn High School is not the enemy here. This kid is getting the opportunity to receive a world class high school education (google International Baccalureate World School) and all people want to do is throw the school and its administrators under the bus. If the School Board okayed for him to attend SMHS, then there really isn't any argument why he is there. The School Board does not make decisions based on athletics. You're pointing your anger towards the wrong parties. I think it's a shame that the TSSAA is attempting to ruin this young man's life by the decision that they made. He is enrolled in a school based on the decision of the local school board, and they are taking away his privilege to play football at a great school which will probably ultimately lead to this student getting an athletic scholarship to attend a decent college. As it stands today, he can't play football, he is losing exposure to colleges who may be recruiting him, and he may end up leaving the school to play football somewhere else next year where he may not have school administrators and teachers who give a rip about his academic success. I am from Signal Mtn, and I personally know many of the teachers at the school. I can honestly, whole heartedly say that most of the teachers there care so much about their students and want to see them succeed in life and get a great college education upon graduating from SMHS. People blindly throw the common stereotypes of Signal Mtn around, but the fact is that the school provides Tim McCelendon with a positive environment and a better chance at academic and athletic success which could bring him great opportunities in the future. I realize that there are other schools in the area where Tim could have attended, but he was given the option to enroll at SMHS, and he took that opportunity and ran with it. Don't hate the school, the coaches, the student, or anyone else for him being given this opportunity!

October 12, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.
LZD2011 said...

How do you appeal when you KNOW you are in the wrong? Hopefully TSSAA will not allow SM to prevail in this issue. If SM is overruled then Bill Price will not be there long anyway. I have nothing against the boys on the team. They are good at football. But, the team will play off the attitude of the coach and he is not a good example of how they should conduct themselves. I hope the ruling will stand. I wouldn't think you would want to have all these wins and know that you didn't play by the rules. Where is the VICTORY in that?

October 12, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.
LZD2011 said...

I understand that if you can get a better education elsewhere then that should be allowed, but you CANNOT tell me that is the REAL reason he enrolled at SM! You and I, and everyone else, know that the main reason he is there is because Price wanted him. PERIOD! I know for a FACT of a student that played last year should have been made to sit out for a year. He played for East Ridge the year before....So....when it all boils down, Price gets what he wants or he quits! He made that clear when the brawl with Soddy-Daisy happened. He said if he was suspended then he would just quit. The coach at Soddy-Daisy suspended himself and I think he wanted his players to know that what went on should not be tolerated and I applaud him.

So, whatever the reason they, (SM) are giving for a "hardship" the real reason was for him to play ball there.

October 12, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.
tnsbchsm said...

So Bernard, let me get this straight. ANY student in the state of Tennessee that is attending a school out of their zone on a hardship approved by their county school board is not allow to play ANY sport? Okay, you better get busy investigating every school in the state starting at the top. I believe your witch hunt against Bill Price just turned into a big can of worms for you. Good luck with that.

October 12, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.
smmom said...

Well said tnsbchsm!!

October 12, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.
Bobo said...

LZD2011,

I'll keep saying it until everyone gets it - SM did not grant the hardship. Hamilton County Department of Education Central Office grants these hardships - whether it is a valid reason or NOT! If they would stop granting these bogus hardships, we would NOT be discussing this - PERIOD. Dont believe me? Call the Central Office, even easier check the website, but oh wait, they removed it off there website. Interesting huh?

October 12, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.
LZD2011 said...

Bobo, I didn't say that SM granted the hardship. I DO know that it has to come from HCDE! What I said was, "Whatever REASON Signal Mtn. was GIVING for the hardship,".............

October 12, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
smfootballfan said...

It's hard to believe that this is the only hardship case in the Brainerd HS area, where are those kids, has anyone from SM helped them? If anyone should be upset, it should be Brainerd High School, they lost a good player. The best thing would be for SM to purchase a house in the SM zone and let these player live there until they graduate.

October 12, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.
Bobo said...

My Mistake, LZD. I still stand by my point, however.

October 12, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
footballmom said...

What about the game he participated in this Spring? I don't know his hardship, don't really care (that is not anyone's business.) I know there is a 365 waiting rule on changing schools within a certain territory.It looks like that is a big part of this whole thing...... I live on the county line( pay taxes in 1, receive mail in the other close).My son was approached about playing ball in the other county, he declined because even if they are not on top every year he is a true Indian at heart, he also told the coach "he didn't want to set out his junior year". We were both told by THE Coach " Don't worry about the year waiting period, I can take care of that". Take it for what it is worth.....some coaches Will take a detour to get to the TOP.

October 12, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.
ldurham said...

Again, I'm so glad that Signal is opening its doors to all comers. The best education in the county (or maybe the world) can be yours if you go to Central Office and cry "Hardship!" It worked for the McClendon family, so it can work for you too. Gee, I'll bet Brainerd High will be an empty shell now that Signal has put the word out, that it's open for business! Come one, come all! Does it matter if you're a great athlete? Of course not! It's all about academics! Since every school can't be as great as Signal, just send 'em all to the mountain top!

October 12, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.
rlburns said...

I find it very interesting that Nashville's "The Tennessean" published the weekly AP poll for six TN Division 1 top 10 HS teams in each class based on the votes AP-member sportswriters & broadcasters has ranked Class 4A SMHS as #9 even with a 0-2 record. Congratulations to team members & coaching staff! Somebody out there respects the SMHS football program's success in spite of TSSAA!

The TSSAA issued a penalty far in excess of the alleged infraction. I am very pleased to read about the appeal and wish SMHS every success in winning that appeal. By the way, can anyone tell me who has oversight responsibility for TSSAA?

October 12, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.
ElleEmMo said...

You chose to become a member of TSSAA, no one forces you. In becoming a member you agree to abide by the rules and the punishments - all clearly laid out in the handbook. The Principal is the ultimate responsible party. Direct frustration at the people who dropped the ball - not the ones who enforce the rules when they're broken.

October 12, 2011 at 12:28 p.m.
AndyBrown said...

The only hardship is that Signal would find it alot harder to win football games without their recruit. Which would then lead to the coaching staff and administrators finding it harder to keep their jobs. Nowfedup is 100% right. The lust for football wins and state titles has led to every aspect of academic life becoming an accessory to what happens on Friday. Also, here's a reality check: Being a top public school academically in TN simply makes you a first rate, second rate school. The best of the worst if you will.

October 12, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.
toby said...

I just dont understand how the TSSAA waited two weeks after they knew to contact Signal Mtn. That is complete bs.. They knew what they were doing. They need to check a lot of schools in this area about athletes who have hardships playing because it happens every where. I KNOW FOR A FACT. I am begging the TSSAA to come to schools in Chattanooga area and look at hardships. That is so low down for them to wait two weeks where it affects theie post season play. That was done on purpose. Administrators at two local schools knew about the violation before signal mtn did. How is that right, How does two principals and AD know about the situtation before the signal mountain staff did. The TSSAA should feel bad about waiting two weeks to notify the school. All they had to do was contact the school and tell them to hold the student out but instead they wait till it affects the team, teachers, community, and coaches. That is a complete and laughable joke. PLEASE TSSAA GO CHECK OTHER SCHOOLS IN THIS AREA. I KNOW IT HAPPENS. PLEASE I AM BEGGING... waiting two weeks hahahahahah what a malicious act by design.

October 12, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
toby said...

The main thing I have noticed about all of these comments on the articles that have been posted is people are talking about stuff they have no idea about. Some people are sounding like complete idiots. They are outsiders trying to bash signal mountain. Reading some of the stuff makes it apperent.. People are saying stuff that is sooooo wrong. THE POINT IS KNOW THE FACTS BEFORE YOU SPEAK. ALSO, THE HARDSHIPS AND ATHLETICS HAPPEN ALL OVER THE COUNTY. MY NEIGHBOR ATTENDS A SCHOOL ON A HARDSHIP AND PLAYS FOOTBALL , ARE THEY IN TROUBLE, NO...MAYBE BECAUSE THEY ARE 2-6 LOLOLOL PLEASE PEOPLE... I just hope the TSSAA starts looking at other schools.. and when they do I hope they wait two weeks to do it hahahahahahaha

October 12, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.
ElleEmMo said...

Toby, check out today's '5 at 10' in the Sports section. They address some of your timing questions.

October 12, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
HonorH said...

I would love to know what the "hardship" is. When my sons were in school, it was going to cause me a financial hardship as a single mother if my youngest had to go to Loftis instead of Hixson Middle. I had to jump through all sorts of hoops to prove the hardship and then had to appeal the initial denial of it when it was just arbitrarily denied without looking at the issues. The schools have a very strict definition of what they deem a "hardship", so I'd be really interested to know what the "hardship" was in this case.

October 12, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
provda said...

@nowfedup: You should probably do more research about the school before you start criticizing it. SMMHS is funded almost entirely by the tax payers of Signal Mountain and the hard work of Mountain Education Fund. In fact, they have amazing facilities furnished with top notch technology. At Signal, I believe that their tremendous academic record shows that sports are not the most important thing at the school. They are one of the best public high schools in Hamilton County, and I would dare say competitive with some of the private schools. They just received International Baccalaureate status. Also, over 90% of last year’s graduating class went on to college or into the military. And as far as "college ball" goes, not every student can receive an academic scholarship and not every student can afford to pay tuition out of pocket. Therefore, if a student has the chance to get a sports scholarship, they should take it because the point is that they will be going to college to better their future chances of success. The hardship is that he was zoned for Brainerd which is a failing school that would not have provided him the academic opportunities that SMMHS can.--By the way, if you believe that the education TN students are receiving is not up to par, then do something about it. No one says that parents/ guardians cannot expand upon the learning in the classroom to help their children get ahead.

October 12, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.
HonorH said...

Doing a little research on the Department of Education's website, you will learn that Brainerd is not a failing school, according to NCLB standards. The only 4 high schools on the list are Howard, Lookout Valley, Red Bank and Soddy Daisy. And a transfer request based on a failing school is not deemed a "hardship" request. "Hardship requests" include medical needs and other priority situations, and the criteria for "hardship transfers" is very limited. Plus those requests had to be turned in prior to June 15, 2011.

October 12, 2011 at 3 p.m.
WEBMAN said...

IT AMAZES ME HOW FAR PEOPLE WILL GO TO MAKE A WRONG A RIGHT.WHAT WAS THE KIDS "HARDSHIP" AND WHY DIDN'T HE MOVE TO SIGNAL MTN. LIKE DONNIE GARNER DID. BY THE WAY, DONNIE'S DAD NOW LIVES IN BRAINERD.LOL

October 12, 2011 at 4 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

footballmom said... What about the game he participated in this Spring? I don't know his hardship, don't really care (that is not anyone's business.) I know there is a 365 waiting rule on changing schools within a certain territory.It looks like that is a big part of this whole thing...... I live on the county line( pay taxes in 1, receive mail in the other close).My son was approached about playing ball in the other county, he declined because even if they are not on top every year he is a true Indian at heart, he also told the coach "he didn't want to set out his junior year". We were both told by THE Coach " Don't worry about the year waiting period, I can take care of that". Take it for what it is worth.....some coaches Will take a detour to get to the TOP. October 12, 2011 at 11:50 a.m. permalink suggest removal

That sounds a lot more serious than some so called clerical error.

October 12, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
headcoconut said...

Darn IT. I thought all those signal mountainers were trying to run those darkuns out of their school 'n back to Howard and Brainerd. In fact, didn't the principal of that very school allegedly recently told a dark skinned student to go to howard? Just a sneaky way of sayin' NO____ALLOWE? That is, unless they're making touchdowns on the football field for the school? Wonder what's going to happen when one of their daughters get the hots for this football star? Gonna be real interesting.

October 12, 2011 at 5:15 p.m.

U mad bro? i think you jelly... u jelly bro?

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October 12, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
twister750 said...

Signal Mountain has an amazing educational program that will help get students into a better college and have a better life. For all of those people who do not live on the mountain and think that we have a butt load of money and "pay" our way for everything might want to think again. Ever since the beginning we have proved that we are good at sports and most people can't handle the fact that a new school is coming in and whipping their teams in something they've been doing longer than we have ever been around. People can get a good education and play on a state champion football team to get a scholarship to go to a great college at Signal. A facts a fact. This is not Coach Price's fault or Dr. McCullough's fault. And definitely not the players fault. Haters gonna hate!

October 12, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
chioK_V said...

It would be nice if schools such as signal mountain welcomed these type students for more than just their atheletic abilities. Would they be fighting to keep this student to stay at their school if he was just as good scholastically as he apparently is atheletically? I don't think so.

Weren't their several opinion pieces written to a local online media outlet a few short months ago from parents and teachers alike claiming students zoned for Brainerd and Howard bused to their pristine school were actually bringing down the quality education at the school? That they were a major cause of many of the problems at Sig. Mtn. High?

October 12, 2011 at 9:39 p.m.
my3boys said...

chioK_V: ther are plenty of students on NCLB, that are ther for academics not athletics. the problem is, that some of these students are a behavior issue, and bring disruption to the learning environment. this would intern, bring down the amount of quantity of education being relayed to students, not the QUALITY. lord know i am all for NCLB, if the intent from the students are to learn. though sometimes i wonder if some children are being "left behind" or if they want to just "tag along"

October 12, 2011 at 10:35 p.m.
my3boys said...

headcoconut: dont turn the smhs into a race issue, it is anything but that. ther are plently of children from all racial backgrounds at all signal mountain schools. you dont have to be any certain race to be welcomed on smhs, nor do you have to come with a birth certificate authenticating that you can carry a football, kick a field goal, make a jump shot, make a hole in one, hit a grand slam or even be a part of any type of athletic team. all that is expected is for students to be respectful, work hard to succeed, and suport each other. yes, smhs students have been in the wrong, and thanks to TFP, everyone knows it. but the truth of the matter is, that these things go on with teenagers in many others schools, it just doesnt make it to the front page of the newspaper because of their popularity. so, the pathetic truth is, that maybe after all of this tssaa stuff is over with, and regardless of the final outcome, maybe everyone in chattanooga that has hated smhs since the beginning, can finally find something else to do, and maybe get on another teams back and ride it for awhile. ive always said " haters love to hate us and losers want to be us" go eagles!

October 12, 2011 at 10:54 p.m.
James101 said...

Signal Mtn wont win because of these FACTS and yes they are proven facts.. The TSSAA after the Fight with Baylor 2 Summers ago and the Brawl aganist Soddy has warned them about their behavoir of late and how there has been a few incidents of late.. Then the thing the TSSAA will be really mad about is Signal Mtn waited two weeks and two days to report this ( even though the TSSAA knew all along but they wanted to see how long Signal would wait ).. Also its intresting that Coach Price went to Signals Principal after the Soddy Brawl and told him point blank " If you suspend me then i Quit ".. And YES thats actually true and have been proved by adminstration if you wanna ask.. Now if that shows that the principal has no balls at all i dont know what does.. I also know first hand from friends that live on the family that they get bothered by solicitation from Signal Mtn parents wanting them to contribute to their school.. And when my friends or whoelse says No or i cant then they get bothered even more to the point where the principal has been called.. I mean honestly i have nothing aganist Signal School or the Parents at ALL but just some of the actions from parents and students of past year or two have really turned some ppl off.. I think there are some really good folks up there but at same time maybe its time to look in mirror and try to understand why the image of yall is so bad.. Its sad but i say Signal High School will be like a Red Bank High in about 5 years..

October 13, 2011 at 9:12 p.m.
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