For the second time this season, Signal Mountain High School's football team has seen its hopes dashed.
The school on Thursday appealed the TSSAA's Oct. 7 ruling that the team used an ineligible player and would have six wins vacated. Friday the Eagles learned that the appeal to the TSSAA's Board of Control was denied.
"Tim McClendon [the player ruled ineligible] and the football program at Signal Mountain will continue to have success. This is just another hurdle that we'll have to get over," coach Bill Price said.
"I appreciate the Board of Control listening to our argument. I still think the information we [originally] gave the TSSAA was not deceitful. I think the kid was eligible. However, they ruled against us and we have to move on and play this last football game."
Signal principal Tom McCullough confirmed that the process will not become an issue for the courts.
"We talked again about that yesterday, and there's no need in carrying it further," he said. "Through the TSSAA we had a chance to appeal. We made that appeal and they have denied it. We have reached the end of the line on appeals. That's the process the TSSAA has set up, and we will abide by that process."
McCullough also said he did not know of any plan for anyone to file any kind of suit specifically on McClendon's behalf.
The principal and the coach believe that even the denied appeal could cause changes in the wording of some of the organization's bylaws and eligibility clarifications.
"There's no doubt," Price said. "I think [what constitutes] hardships in the state of Tennessee will be made more clear."
McCullough also would like to see additional or enhanced direction and verbiage regarding students granted hardships and state rules.
"I believe they need to look at the wording of their definitions and provide a little more clarity," he said.
When asked if he thought Signal Mountain's situation was isolated, McCullough said, "I don't know for sure -- I have no evidence -- but I am confident there are similar situations."
When asked if thought the appeal process had been a waste of time, Price said no.
"The meeting we had and the appeals process -- everything we needed to say on behalf of Signal Mountain has been said," the coach said.
He did, however, have some thoughts on a comment in Friday's Times Free Press attributed to TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress.
Childress was quoted, in part, as saying, "'I can say honestly that we were notified by numerous administrators that we needed to look into four student-athletes who had transferred to Signal Mountain. We were told that Bill Price had bragged they had recruited them in because they were good players. Any time we get a tip with the word 'recruiting' we first have to determine if there is enough evidence to pursue it."
To which the coach said, "As far as some comments made by people in high places in the TSSAA, I have never been accused of recruiting and I never boasted of it, so people who made those remarks don't know me or have never spoken to me."
Price did accept blame for what the TSSAA had called a "mistake" in completing the eligibility form.
"I'm sorry for the football team, the players and the community," he said. "Ultimately the buck stops with me. I filled out the eligibility form and was not trying to deceive anyone. I thought we had covered all bases on Tim's eligibility."
There is a possibility that the TSSAA will allow McClendon to play next week in Signal's final 2011 game at Sequatchie County. That reportedly will depend on whether coaches at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, his former school, can provide video documentation of how many days McClendon practiced with the Warriors last spring.
Regardless, Price said Signal Mountain's team and its fans would act in an appropriate and sportsmanlike fashion next Friday.
"We will represent ourselves at Sequatchie County, and our fans will represent us as one would expect," he said.
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 ...