published Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Blog: Tommy Layne unopposed, re-elected despite gripes

  • photo
    Sequatchie County High School Principal Tommy Layne
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

TSSAA board of control member Tommy Layne was up for re-election Monday.

He won hands down. Unopposed.

So much for the football coaches who were upset with the Sequatchie County principal's vote to keep the state at six Division I classifications rather than five. Now they've got the same mindset for the next three years.

In the board's 5-4 vote to keep six public school brackets, Layne was one of the five. The majority of football coaches in the area he represents -- generally the greater Chattanooga area -- did little more than grumble about him undoing what he helped do.

In discussing the possibility of a public/private split in the middle of last month, Layne said, "I represent a lot of schools, and I vote how the majority tells me to vote."

Apparently he misread coaches' desires on the five- or six-classification deal.

Here are some of the responses from a preseason poll in which coaches were asked what they would change about their state athletic association:

East Hamilton's Ted Gatewood: "The football playoff format; criteria to determine who makes the playoffs other than district championship."

Tyner's Wayne Turner: "Go back to five classifications to make playoffs more equitable."

East Ridge's Tracy Malone: "Take us back to five classifications."

Hixson's Jason Fitzgerald: "Listen to the coaches."

Red Bank's E.K. Slaughter: "For coaches to have a greater say in major decisions."

Ooltewah's Shannon Willams: "The playoff bracket system."

At a meeting at Red Bank before the board of control vote, most coaches left with the feeling that Layne entered the meeting, which he called, with his mind made up.

In an email response last week to a request for comment on the TSSAA paying playoff expenses for Sullivan South -- which he declined -- Layne wrote, "I have no idea why coaches thought my mind was made up. I called my friend on the board, Jerry Mathais, who I knew was for six classes and told him on the way to the meeting that my vote rested on what the coaches wanted. I tried to be impartial but was really concerned about regular-season travel, especially in 6A and the extreme travel in 1A. Even if I had my mind made up, it was no benefit to Sequatchie County."

Layne, who suggested polling coaches to ask how many called him to discuss the matter one-on-one after he gave them his cell number, might have a tough time convincing coaches of that. He can't sell them on the notion that he was voting the way the majority of his constituents wanted.

• Now here's one for you: a proposal to have all schools in one grand division until the playoffs. Then separate public from private. Smart? Don't know for sure. You wind up with the ability to police financial aid/scholarships, but I'm not sure the Division II-AA schools are interested in that. Of course, schools like Silverdale Baptist and Boyd-Buchanan that fall under the 1.8 multiplier might be able to play in a more numbers-friendly playoff bracket, but if they're going to be forced into Division II, why not go ahead and start giving financial aid to athletes?

Is there a swap-off here somewhere?

How many classifications is this going to generate? And I don't know how Tommy Layne would feel about it. It might be a strict postseason separation, but it might also force Division I teams to play more Division II teams in regular-season events.

• Any wrestling coach out there who hasn't yet submitted a schedule?

Send me one at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or fax one to me at 423-668-5151.

• Watching the Troy-Tennessee game last Saturday, I had the thought that somebody needs to tell Vols receiver Justin Hunter to take his huggy-bear, look-at-me touchdown celebration dance to the sideline or the house -- or to make those kinds of catches against big-boy teams. And shame on the back judge for not dropping a flag. That little two-step was anything but spontaneous.

Celebrating in the pros is one thing. College ball should still be a gentlemen's game.

Did you ever wonder what is politically correct during athletic events? Society these days dictates that one can't say how one actually feels -- gee whiz, somebody might get their feelings hurt -- but anything goes on the field or gym floor? Don't you get sick of the hypocrisy? And does anybody else think there's a difference in being polite and being politically correct? I remember my parents used to say, "Sometimes the truth hurts."

But I digress. Referees finally got Hunter for unsportsmanlike conduct on the late TD, but his spike wasn't anywhere near as "unsporting" as the early "dance."

• I actually saw a high school coach come so close to losing his cool the other day. He was livid with his players, one for showboating and another for unnecessary physical contact, and made sure they knew it. I was delighted.

• Can't resist mentioning this. The officials at the game I covered last Friday night were so interested in the air pressure in the game balls. They checked every one for both teams and marked them, and then the side judge at one point asked the ball boy if somebody on the team was letting air out of the footballs. Never mind that the temperature dropped 10-15 degrees from the initial check.

• Now back to the playoffs. I wish somebody would explain to me why a lower-classification team gets no reward for beating a higher-class team -- as in a 1A South Pittsburg beating a 2A Marion County. Why shouldn't that be used in determining the postseason pecking order?

It's like eating a Krystal without mustard. (Ever tried it? Disgusting, and I have scratched the Krystal on Signal Mountain Boulevard from my late-night snack stops.)

I know I've hammered this one before, but Tyner and Howard are 3A teams in a district dominated by 4A teams. They have no choice. They have to play 4A teams, and yet Tyner was penalized for this year's 3A playoffs despite the fact that its two regular-season losses were to 4A teams the TSSAA said it had to play.

I have asked about this previously and gotten the equivalent of a blank stare.

And I don't believe there is a penalty for a 6A team that loads up on lower-classification teams and pads its win total. A win over a 6A team ought to count more than a win over a 5A or a 4A team, just as a 3A or 4A team ought to get extra credit for playing and beating a higher-classification team.

The TSSAA accounting system is skewed and deserves to be skewered.

• If they were smart, they wouldn't go back to five classifications. They'd go to four. But either way, they need to go East/West -- split the state straight in half right up through Murfreesboro and Nashville -- and seed each half one through 16 regardless of travel involved. OK, so a Sullivan South might wind up traveling to the midstate. Know that's the way it is and get on with it.

And don't go whining for handouts. Yes, Sullivan South, under the current playoff setup, really had no business making a trip to Columbia, but the TSSAA should have adjusted the entire bracket to rectify the problem.

I understand the state association was trying to do what was best for the whole, but I have a problem with Sullivan South. The TSSAA explained the situation and Sullivan South said, "No, thanks." At that point I would have told Sullivan South to "man up."

The playoffs -- making the playoffs -- should be a point of pride rather than economics, and my response to the schools in this state would be, "OK, if the playoffs don't mean anything to you, then let's cut the field and return meaning -- a reason to be proud of one's program -- into qualifying for a state tournament series."

As one coach told me last week, "I bet you anything that Cleveland wouldn't have had any problem jumping on a bus and heading for Columbia."

And another said, "I'd drive from here to the farthest northwest point in the state above Memphis if it meant my team had a chance to continue playing in the postseason."

Postseason participation is not a right. It's a privilege, and a privilege that's been diluted by the misguided mindset that everybody deserves a medal.

Everybody doesn't deserve a medal. Everybody shouldn't be on an all-tournament team. The postseason should be for the best and definitely and specifically for those who have earned the right and want to be there.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

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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