published Sunday, July 15th, 2012

TSSAA board votes Monday on reclassification

Current six-classification format

(Playoff class in parentheses)

District 5-A: Boyd-Buchanan (2A), Copper Basin (1A), Grace Academy (1A), Silverdale Baptist (2A)

District 6-A: Lookout Valley (1A), Marion County (2A), South Pittsburg (1A), Whitwell (1A)

District 5-AA: McMinn Central (3A), Meigs County (3A), Polk County (3A), Sequoyah (4A), Sweetwater (3A)

District 6-AA: Brainerd (4A), Central (4A), East Hamilton (4A), East Ridge (4A), Hixson (4A), Howard (3A), Red Bank (4A), Tyner (3A)

District 7-AA: Bledsoe County (3A), Chattanooga Christian (3A), Grundy County (3A), Notre Dame (4A), Sequatchie County (3A), Signal Mountain (4A)

District 5-AAA: Bradley Central (6A), Cleveland (5A), McMinn County (6A), Ooltewah (5A), Rhea County (6A), Soddy-Daisy (6A), Walker Valley (5A)

Proposed five-classification system

Class 1A

Region 3: Copper Basin, Grace Academy, Huntland, Lookout Valley, Moore County, South Pittsburg, Whitwell

Class 2A

Region 3: Bledsoe County, Boyd-Buchanan, Brainerd, Howard, Marion County, Meigs County, Polk County, Silverdale Baptist, Tyner

Class 3A

Region 3: CAK, Kingston, Loudon, McMinn Central, Scott

Region 4: Chattanooga Christian, East Ridge, Grundy County, Hixson, Notre Dame, Red Bank, Sequatchie County, Signal Mountain

Class 4A

Region 4: Central, Cleveland, East Hamilton, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Sequoyah, White County

Class 5A

Region 3: Bradley Central, Coffee County, Franklin County, Lincoln County, McMinn County, Soddy-Daisy, Walker Valley, Warren County

After delaying the vote twice, the TSSAA Board of Control will determine how high school football teams will be grouped into classifications during a special meeting Monday afternoon at TSSAA headquarters. The board voted two weeks ago to table the decision on classification and moved it again last week when two board members were out of town.

The board discussed classification for two days during its June meetings, narrowing the likely choices to two, before the nine members decided they wanted to delay a final decision until after they had presented each scenario to the schools in their areas.

The board likely will vote to keep the current three-classification system for every sport except football, and the decision for the state's top revenue-producing sport is whether to continue using the current plan, which has three classes for the regular season and expands to six for the playoffs, or to return to the old five-class system. Whichever classification plan is voted in will go into effect for the 2013-17 school years.

The board also will vote in July on whether to continue using the enrollment multiplier for private schools that opt to not give need-based financial aid so that they can continue playing in the public school division. The state's current multiplier of 1.8 for those schools is the highest rate in the nation. Some states -- Arkansas, Georgia and Missouri included -- recently stopped using a multiplier for private schools.

"For us, being a small private school (300 students) it forces us to play up above our head, and I have never thought that was fair," Boyd-Buchanan football coach Grant Reynolds said. "I don't think it's right that we have the highest multiplier in the country. I get the feeling that there are some board members that wanted to kick us out, move us into Division II, but the TSSAA conceded by allowing the multiplier to be voted in.

"I've always felt like some things were done by a minority of the larger private schools, and that gave all private schools a bad rap. The small, faith-based schools in our area like us don't go out and recruit. Most of our kids have been at our school since kindergarten. But we get lumped in with the larger schools who did some questionable things in the past."

There are 336 football-playing schools in Tennessee, 303 of which play in Division I. If the board votes to keep the current classification system for football, enrollment figures show a dramatic change in Class 1A, where 10 schools would likely move up in class, leaving just 31 schools to vie for 24 playoff berths. Class 2A would go from 39 schools to 50, but there wouldn't be noticeable change in any other class.

Should the board choose to return to a five-class system, as was used for 15 years before changing in 2009, it will mean more than the crowning of one fewer state champion. Such a move also would mean the regular-season league groupings would return to a region format, which also means more travel for all teams.

"From the feedback I've gotten so far, most of the coaches from our area want to keep it as is," said Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne, who represents the Chattanooga area on the board. "A lot of it is because of the added travel. With the new system, you would have teams from Ooltewah and Bradley County going to Lincoln County, Franklin County or Warren County and small schools like Copper Basin going all the way to Moore County.

"As far as the multiplier vote, the feelling I got from the local coaches on that is that it will also stay at the same number it is now. There was even some talk from local coaches about separating all the private schools into Division II, but I think it will just stay where it is now."

Under the current classification, the area's largest league of teams includes Bradley Central, Cleveland, McMinn County, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Soddy-Daisy and Walker Valley.

"The travel would really hurt us and most of the other programs," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "For me, I would rather keep it the same. We've built some good rivalries in our league now, and it's more fun to play people you know. And of course everybody needs money to run a program, and it would hurt us to travel that far and knowing they're not going to bring as many fans when they come to our place from so far away. It would kill our gates."

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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