published Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Greeson: Assessing appeal by Signal Mountain Eagles

  • photo
    In this file photo, a child talks to an adult through a fence just before the start of Signal Mountain's season opening home football game. The Eagles were the 2010 State Champions for their division.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Should Signal Mountain win its appeal?
  • Yes. 38%
  • No. 62%

1226 total votes.

Well that shocked exactly no one. When word came down that the TSSAA ordered Signal Mountain to vacate its six high school football wins and put the postseason almost certainly beyond the Eagles' reach, an appeal seemed like a certainty.

That certainty became fact Tuesday when Dr. Tom McCullough told our newspaper's Ward Gossett about their intentions. Now, what's next? As of Wednesday night the TSSAA had not ruled and there does not appear to be a set timeframe.

With an extra day of perspective, let's see if we can cover a collection of points:

* There appears to be hurt feelings that the TSSAA was informed Sept. 22 of the allegations that Signal Mountain's Tim McClendon, a two-way starter, was believed to be ineligible. The TSSAA did not act until last Thursday, meaning even if the Eagles swept their last three games, they were going to need a lot of help to make the postseason. Well, the TSSAA has an entire state to overlook so dropping everything to inform Signal about the allegations seems a little presumptuous. Plus, if the TSSAA made it protocol to call schools as soon as every allegation before an investigation was made and told the school that Player X had eligibility questions, the weekly fallout would be overwhelming. If that was the expected policy, a team, player, coach, fan or custodian that didn't want to face that stud running back at their rival school could call the TSSAA and drop a rumor hoping that the school would hold him out that week.

* There are questions about the Hamilton County Board of Education's role in issuing a hardship waiver that said McClendon was eligible to attend Signal Mountain despite living in the Brainerd zone. Signal administration and Dr. McCullough are putting a lot of their appeal eggs in this basket, even using the less-than-veiled threatening language of "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," in Tuesday's release.

Here's one view on the hardship piece: Hamilton County determines which students go to which schools, the schools and ultimately the TSSAA determine if they are eligible to participate in athletics.

* As for the "numerous student athletes in Hamilton County and across Tennessee whose eligibility may be questionable," part of Dr. McCullough's statement, well, that's a blanket quote that may or may not be true. And maybe there are dozens or even hundreds of ineligible student-athletes participating in high school sports in Hamilton County and across the state. But to even hint or rationalize or suggest that one party's mistake is OK because there are possibly or even probably several others making the same mistake doesn't wash. The "everyone else is doing it defense" rarely ever works. If you think that should fly, maybe you should try using the "Everyone else was speeding officer," plea the next time a cop pulls you over for going 75 in a 55.

* That said, if you had the recent history of Signal Mountain's football program, including the summer scrimmage skirmish and the ensuing penalties from that event that drew the ire of the TSSAA for not being tough enough, aren't you going to make 100 percent certain that all of your T's are crossed and your I's are dotted? Especially when the transfer is 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds and is one of the most impressive-looking players on the field every Friday night?

* It's a flat-out shame for the seniors on the Signal football team, including McClendon, who almost assuredly did not make the paper-work miscues that have served as the launching point for the TSSAA's investigation.

Who knows how this turns out, but it's been of high interest and it's been filled with heated emotions. I don't know which is more sad, the likely end to the high school football career for a lot of teenagers who worked a lot of hours in an effort to defend a state title or the almost giddyness with which some folks are greeting this news.

Either way, when the appeals finally run their course, there are going to a truck load of tears -- some happy, some sad -- and it's obvious everyone is watching and paying close attention.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
crow1033 said...

Wow! Still making headlines! Signal Mountain Eagles will be just fine no matter how the appeal turns out! Don't bet on TSSAA changing their ruling even if they delayed; they don't want to have to actually investigate all of the 'ineligibles' in the State of TN because then no one would be going to playoffs. Signal Mountain is a strong team with good kids, great coaches and a community that supports them! Go Eagles!

October 13, 2011 at 7:01 a.m.
ldurham said...

The "everyone else is doing it" defense = "yep, you caught us."

October 13, 2011 at 8:07 a.m.
WEBMAN said...


October 13, 2011 at 8:11 a.m.
sangaree said...

Not that I know what this young man's academic record looks like, however if he was an academic standout in the areas of math, science, languages would SMMHS be fighting equally hard to keep him? Given his skin color and the area he's actually zoned for, hasn't SMMHS been complaining about aneed to get those students out of their schools? Why would any parent allow their child to be used in such a way is incomprehensible. What happens if or when he sprains or strains a muscle, tendon or has a serious injury where he can no longer play? Will SMMHS work overtime to have him shipped back to Brainer? I think so.

October 13, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
dlogic said...

I don't feel confident in S.M.'s appeal chances because I know for a fact one assistant coach has used illegal players in the past. Plus, how do you get a hardship transfer when you have never attended a Hamilton County school?

October 13, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.
ldurham said...

It's called a "Chip Baker transfer." It's been effective for years.

October 13, 2011 at 4:18 p.m.
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