published Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Gossett: TSSAA Board of Control likely to deny Signal Mountain High School appeal

Tim McClendon, a senior running back/line backer for Signal Mountain High School, stands on the sideline as teammates practice at their home field. McClendon is under investigation by the TSSAA for living in a district outside of that which feeds SMHS making him uneligible to play on the team.
Tim McClendon, a senior running back/line backer for Signal Mountain High School, stands on the sideline as teammates practice at their home field. McClendon is under investigation by the TSSAA for living in a district outside of that which feeds SMHS making him uneligible to play on the team.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Do you agree with the TSSAA decision?

When Signal Mountain makes its appeal to a three-member TSSAA Board of Control panel Thursday, odds are that the TSSAA ruling will be upheld.

The TSSAA ruled on Oct. 7 that the Eagles had used an ineligible [out of zone] player and vacated six wins. The ruling virtually eliminated any hopes the 2010 Class 2A state champions had of participating in their first Class 4A playoffs although they were 6-1 at the time that ruling was handed down.

Signal Mountain officials maintain a difference in interpretation. They believed Tim McClendon was eligible because he had been granted a hardship by the Hamilton County Department of Education to attend their school. They listed his address correctly (he lives in Brainerd) and then entered Signal Mountain as his zone on the TSSAA's online eligibility form.

However, the TSSAA has maintained, probably for eons, that zoning hardships are not automatic approval for athletic participation.

Now, right or wrong, how many times has an appeal been overturned? And if it becomes an issue for the courts, how many legal battles has the TSSAA lost? Answer: Very few and never. Even the case by Brentwood Academy, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court, finally came out in the TSSAA's favor.

Signal Mountain folks, those who have been around the football program, have to wonder if the TSSAA's decision -- or its vigor in pursuing the incident -- was prompted by a disagreement Eagles coach Bill Price had with TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress at the state championship series in Cookeville last December or by Signal principal Tom McCullough's decision to ignore a TSSAA "suggestion" that Price be suspended for one game after a fight broke out during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against Soddy-Daisy.

I don't know how McCullough, Price and their advisers will present their case Thursday, and I don't know if they'll ask for another appeal if this one's turned down or even if they'll go so far as to petition the courts for relief.

What I do now is that I'll be glad when the situation is resolved.

* For those Signal Mountain opponents concerned about the Eagles wins that might affect their playoff standings, there is good news.

According to the TSSAA's Matthew Gillespie, Signal's record will be complete for playoff system calculations. For example, Tyner lost to the Eagles but when it comes time to calculate opponents' victories, all of Signal's wins including those vacated by the TSSAA ruling of an ineligible player will be used.

* Is there ever a good time for a loss? If there is, then it was last Friday night for Boyd-Buchanan, which lost its unbeaten streak in a 26-10 loss to rival South Pittsburg. However, the loss was not a district game and could serve as a means for the team to rededicate itself for the final district game against Copper Basin and a serious playoff run.

If there was a cost, it might be host role for a potential Class 2A postseason matchup with midstate power Trousdale County.

Boyd probably extended South Pittsburg enough to aid Polk County coach Derrick Davis, who'll take his team to South Pitt this week in what is becoming another strong area rivalry.

* McCallie had two backs -- Daniel McClure and Samir Usman-- with 100 rushing yards and the Blue Tornado shut out Pope John Paul II for three quarters in a 45-7 victory. McCallie, which ran for 279 yards, hosts Montgomery Bell Academy this week. MBA is coming off a lopsided loss to Ensworth.

* Offering a correction. I made two mistakes last week regarding an unsportsmanlike conduct call. I mentioned Sequatchie County's Indians when I meant to write Polk County and/or Wildcats. Apologies to coach Chad Barger and the Indians.

* Does McMinn Central, 1-8 this year and already an improvement over 2010 (0-10), have a chance Friday? The Chargers are playing at Stone Memorial (3-5). However, Stone Memorial had a three-game win streak before losing 51-0 to Alcoa last Friday.

* Hixson's Clarencio Holmes was as close to healthy Friday as he has been in a month (sprained AC joint), and he got 107 rushing yards but the Wildcats lost their sixth straight game after starting out with a 3-0 bang. Holmes had both of Hixson's TDs against East Ridge, one on an 11-yard run and another on a 45-yard interception return.

* So how does your district shape up?

It looks like 5-AAA is going to go down the final game of the season with the winner between McMinn County and Bradley Central winning the title outright. That's among the Class 6A teams. Ooltewah and Cleveland still have shots at the 5A field.

Current 6-AA leader Red Bank has its two toughest games the next two weeks -- against East Hamilton this Friday and then Tyner on Oct. 28. The Lions are unbeaten but East Hamilton is right on their heels with a 4-1 record. One of two Class 3A teams in the bunch, Tyner still has a shot at the postseason. The last couple of years the TSSAA has seen fit to take four 6-AA teams for the playoffs, so East Ridge, Brainerd and Central have to figure they're still in the running.

District 7-AA, because of Signal's vacated wins, is all but decided with Bledsoe finishing first and Sequatchie County second.

Polk County has a clear lead in District 5-AA. It's likely that Sweetwater, Sequoyah and even Meigs County could work their way in with Sequoyah going Class 4A and the rest 3A.

South Pittsburg and Lookout Valley are likely to advance from District 6-A and Boyd-Buchanan and Grace Academy from District 5-A. Boyd-Buchanan will be in the Class 2A playoffs and the rest in Class 1A.

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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ldurham said...

Here's hoping the TSSAA has the integrity to uphold the rules, despite the TFP/Signal Mtn PR campaign. Perhaps in the future this will discourage greedy coaches and parents from bouncing an athlete to a new high school every few months in search of football glory.

October 19, 2011 at 8:20 a.m.
smmom said...

Here's hoping that the people who are obsessed with bringing signal down because of their own obvious inadequacies, finally can use their energy in a more positive way. Here's hoping that the players of the teams advancing to playoffs will be able to get past the fact that they are there because of a clerical error, not because they were the better team. Here's hoping that our football program, our coaches and our school continues to strive for excellence, as it has the few yrs that it has been in existence......GO EAGLES!

October 19, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.
tarheeljosh said...

I don't have a dog in this fight. I hope the Eagles football team does well in the future, as well as any teams that make the playoffs as a result of the forteiture of wins. I only hope that the parents and adult supporters of this troubled program pay attention to the way they defend it. With a growing list of incidents in the very short history of this program, the aggressive, "you're just jealous and by the way, we're better than you" defense tactics only expand the perception that the character of the program is questionable. I genuinely hope that these young men will develop into great men and great athletes and fill up trophy cases with championships. Please, Signal Mountain supporters, remember that character and success are not mutually exclusive, but the greater of the two is unquestionably character.

October 19, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
LZD2011 said...

tarheeljosh, couldn't have said it better..

October 19, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

I couldn't agree more, tarheeljosh. It's one thing to defend your team, it's another thing to defend your team while putting everyone else down.

October 19, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
Facts said...

For those of us who have the "blessing" of working with Signal Mountain High School parents, we know the public relations effort to hold high the "victim" in this drama. You have succeeded in drawing the attention to the young man who has been trapsed around different schools. The "victim" in the situation is honor. There are a lot of innocent players. But there are a handful of individuals who know exactly what has taken place and the manipulation involved. It's a joke that grown men would go to such lengths. As I said, there are a lot of innocent folks who will suffer, especially the students, at the hands of a few. However, the truth needs to be told. Principal McCullough, you'd be doing this community a big favor to resolve this and issue punishment-to the "grown-ups".

October 19, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
fpsub said...

Tom McCullough replaced the former Signal Mountain principal because of a paperwork problem. Now Signal has another one?! He was supposed to bring academic excellence and accountability to the school, but instead ignores the TSSAA's recommended disciplinary action for the football team following the Signal/Soddy Daisy scrimmage scuffle (Soddy Daisy principal and former coach John Maynard on the other hand was commended by the TSSAA for suspending his coaches and requiring community service for his players). Double checking paperwork for a brand new talented transfer should be a no-brainer for an experienced administrator like Dr. McCullough. The administration's failure to do so however has cost Signal the playoffs, and unfortunately, it's the kids that have to suffer.

October 19, 2011 at 10:19 a.m.
ldurham said...

I saw the student on the news last night blasting his former school LFO for "using" him. For what, exactly? He's the one who followed Coach Shane Roberson there, as Roberson continues to bounce around from school to school. Then he followed Roberson to Signal Mountain. How'd that work out?

October 19, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.
WHS1970 said...

WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAH! SMHS supporters thinks theirs don't stink, but the smell gives them away!!!

October 19, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
kitdoc said...

Five articles from this same writer on the same subject, really? Mr. Gossett, how about talking about something else for a change? As for the problems with the SM program, if you look at the history that has followed this coaching staff at their previous schools, you shouldn't be surprised.

October 19, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
Livn4life said...

Common sense, do not assume anything. Signal Mountain got the hardship ruling for whatever reason from the Hamilton County School Board. Guess what? The Hamilton County School Board does not oversee secondary athletics in the state of Tennessee. The TSSAA, love 'em, hate 'em do so. It seems only logical that rather than assuming the TSSAA would agree with HCSB, just ask the TSSAA but from what was in the above article apparently there was some power-jockeying at work already with some on Signal Mountain. The best thing to do is keep up with rules and requirements,checking in depth if there might be any questions. And for heaven's sake all you Sig Mtn people stop crying, stop blaming anyone else and face the music.

October 19, 2011 at 12:15 p.m.
ChattanoogaVol said...

"What I do now is that I'll be glad when the situation is resolved" - Interesting comment Mr. Gossett. Considering the numerous articles you have written on this situations, I thought you would be jumping for joy that this thing is still playing out. Interesting.

October 19, 2011 at 12:40 p.m.
Rorschach said...

since mr. gossett mentioned the 7 on 7 soddy/signal mountain fight i thought i'd mention the REST of the story. this also is brought up by posters from time to time as well. signal mountain took a black eye on this for good reason. i wasn't at the fight that broke out, but my son was on the field at the time and he told me his account. on the other hand, i was at the fight that broke out last May. MAY?! yes, May. signal and soddy scrimmaged last spring and this was NEVER reported. soddy started not ONE, but TWO fights that i personally witnessed. the first was a bench clearing fight with the soddy bench being the only bench clearing and the signal coaches being the only coaches assisting the officials in breaking up the fight. the second was near the end of the scrimmage when a soddy player intentionally punched a signal player in front of a referee. the soddy player never breaking stride turned toward his team’s bench where he promptly removed his helmet and pads knowing he would be ejected and he was. i've played and coached this game and this scrimmage is one of the top 5 dirtiest i've seen by one team. i only wonder if the 7 on 7 fight was a result from the spring scrimmage.

back to the subject. it's my opinion that one kid is worth more than 6 wins. the signal mountain football team and student body have rallied behind tim and i do too. most of us know the decision that's coming and stand with tim. when the decision's made and all the haters spew their glee here tomorrow, one thing will never change, tim will remain a student at signal mountain and the tssaa can't kick him out of our school......HIS school. he's one of the nicest young men i've met.

October 19, 2011 at 2:22 p.m.
jai_eugene said...

So, Bill Price had a disagreement with someone? Shocked. Are there details on this "....a disagreement Eagles coach Bill Price had with TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress at the state championship series in Cookeville last December..."

Really, Signal Mountain can do better than that as a reason. Bill price has been that "disagreeable" since 1979.

October 19, 2011 at 4:59 p.m.
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