published Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Signal Mountain High School must pay fines, cover TSSAA expenses after failed appeal

Signal  Mountain High School football field.
Signal Mountain High School football field.
Photo by Dan Henry.
Do you agree with the TSAA decision on Signal Mountain's appeal?

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's Board of Control was quick Friday to quash a hint by Signal Mountain High School that the organization should clarify the "territory" from which schools may draw student athletes.

The TSSAA on Friday upheld the Oct. 7 ruling that Eagles senior linebacker and running back Tim McClendon, who transferred from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, was ineligible because he does not live in Signal Mountain's school zone. The TSSAA investigation determined that Signal Mountain made a mistake in filing online for his eligibility, which is why he was allowed to play the first seven games.

Dr. Tom McCullough, the principal, said Friday he was disappointed in the ruling, which forced the football team to vacate six wins. He said the school's "main focus will continue to be on our students."

However, McCullough said, "The fact that the Board of Control deliberated at length tells me that we provided them with a lot of information to consider. ... I have to believe that the wording, definitions, and instructions on filling out transfer forms must be clarified."

Signal Mountain officials maintained during Thursday's hearing that the TSSAA's definition of a school's "territory," the zone from which student-athletes can be drawn, was too vague. They said that confusion led coach Bill Price to believe McClendon was in Signal Mountain's zone when Price filled out the online eligibility form.

TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said there is no plan to discuss or change the wording or definition of what the TSSAA considers to be a school's "territory."

"We have no intentions of changing the wording of the rule because there is no vagueness to it," Childress said. "We feel like it's a very specific rule and we couldn't disagree more with their view.

"Until Signal Mountain tried, we have never, in my 17 years, had a school argue that the definition of territory is too vague."

He said the organization can change its bylaws by vote of member schools.

"I don't remember a situation where we had a school that had been determined to have played an ineligible athlete to then come back and appeal what was already written in our bylaws."

Signal Mountain's appeal lasted nearly three hours Thursday.

Attorney Clancy Covert interviewed McClendon and McClendon's mother; Price; athletic director Patty Lane and Chip Baker, a Hamilton County school board member whose district includes Signal Mountain. He also questioned assistant coach Shane Roberson, who has been McClendon's mentor since middle school. McCullough also spoke on behalf of the school.

The board met behind closed doors and voted Friday to uphold the ruling. Multiple TSSAA sources confirmed the vote was 6-0.


Childress said the TSSAA and Signal Mountain will begin working together to determine whether to clear McClendon to play in the Eagles' final game of the season next week at District 7-AA foe Sequatchie County.

He said McClendon could be cleared to play, depending on his last day of participation in Georgia.

"We're talking about one game, that's all," he said. "But regardless, that won't affect the team having to vacate the six wins, which basically eliminates them from the playoffs as well."

Childress also confirmed that Signal Mountain must write a letter to each school that it competed against while using an ineligible player and pay a $100 fine per contest, or $700, because the violation was not self-reported. The school must also pay for the Board of Control's travel expenses, hotel stay and meals for Thursday's meeting in Murfreesboro.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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georgiaboy30736 said...

Really, it seems to me that someone "Has it out" for Signal Mountain. Now they (TSSAA) want money from Signal Mountain???? PFFFT! Clearly there is someone with TSSAA that really DOES NOT LIKE Signal Mountain. TSSAA needs to be investigated.

October 22, 2011 at 7:46 a.m.
rockridge said...

Travel expenses, hotels and meals? AYFKM!?!?!?!?!?

October 22, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.
emrsmbgns said...

Another piece on Signal Mountain! Look down at the bottom this will make five on one school and one subject. This is more ink than you had for the spring tornados. This story has turned into a soap opera and we all know they don't end. Next article will be on the coaches love of curly fries and the star running backs ballroom dancing skills.

October 22, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
richardkimball said...

So, since Signal is a public school does that mean the taxpayers paid for this appeal and the related expenses mentioned?

October 22, 2011 at 10:17 a.m.
footballmom said...

Look at TSSAA rules, it plainly states if an appeal is cost related to the appeal. Not new information, Signal Administration knew they would have to pay travel expenses BEFORE they filed the appeal.

October 22, 2011 at 10:36 a.m.
sra1952 said...

Since it is all about the kids, and all players have the right to play, and feel good about what they do! Both teams friday night should only play third and fourth string players! The game doesn't count anyway! Save the starters for a real game, I bet they would understand! I think the coaches should work it out ahead of time, to not make a circus out of the game! Don't run up the score.

October 22, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.
Tennman said...

What a stupid comment. Do you actually think that TSSAA just decided to make SM pay? There are rules to go by that TSSAA is enforcing. Just like the rules that SM was suppose to go by and did not. The coach screwed up and now the kids have to suffer for it. I feel for the kids that worked hard and now have their post season pulled from them. The problem is, too many want to point at TSSAA when they should be pointing to the root of the problem, head football Coach.

October 22, 2011 at 6:54 p.m.
IMnotsoHO said...

The $700 fine was previously reported, as it was assessed at the first decision. The Signal Mountain High administration was well aware of the taxpayer money that would be wasted on the unnecessary and un-winnable appeal, that is unless they once again felt reading the TSSAA by-laws was below them.

October 23, 2011 at 10 a.m.
bearhunter2 said...

fine should come out of coaches an a/d pockets. i hope chip baker isn't looking for milage and expense for his trip.SM got what they deserved.

October 23, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
greatwork said...

I wonder if Childress looked as smug as he sounded during this interview? Since the TSSAA took an extra day to decide such a "cut and dry" decision a transcript of their behind closed door meeting should be made available to the people footing the bill.

October 24, 2011 at 3:43 p.m.
sandstorm66 said...

Just pay the fine and go on.....

October 24, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
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