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Let me open by saying I am an advocate of the Tennessee Secondary School’s Athletic Association. This is in no way meant to be an attack of the program, just that it’s time for some maintenance of structure. The organization’s founder, A.F. Bridges, is originally from Lincoln County. I’m proud of the community’s ties to the efforts of promoting well-rounded student athletics.
Do I agree with everything the TSSAA does? Of course not. But, with the “Jerry Springer” mentality of today, a governing body is needed more than ever. As a whole, I feel the organization does an adequate job with the number of schools, sports and legal issues they are required to manage.
In Tennessee, football has long been the golden child of secondary programs. The revenues generated on the gridiron supports a variety of aspects of the community and school athletics. Through the years, the TSSAA has moved from a 3-A system to 5-A then on to a 6-A classification in the football playoffs to keep the playing field equal, as well as to generate additional revenue.
As the growth of some school systems continues to explode, I feel it is time for the governing body to evaluate the classifications of other sports to even their playing field in the post regular season competition, as well – Regionals, Sectionals and State Championships.
Based on enrollments published by the TSSAA of member schools beginning the 2012 school year, Class A enrollments vary from 33 students to 603 – but in football playoffs, the classification of Class A ball ranges from an enrollment of 33 to 361 students. Class AA enrollments range from 533 to 1,006; for football, the Class 2-A begins at 363 and goes to an enrollment of 603 students. Class AAA ranges from an enrollment of 1,017 to 2,381 with the largest member school being Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.
From that point, all classifications are relevant to football only with Class 3-A ranging from 533 to 750 students. Class 4-A goes from an enrollment of 755 to 1,006 students. Class 5-A ranges from 1,017 students to 1,404. Class 6-A starts at an enrollment of 1,415 and goes to 2,381. The range for other sports in class AAA is 1,017 to 2,381 with three fewer categories.
These classifications take effect beginning the 2013 school year.
Should the numbers for other sports mirror the football classifications – not necessarily – but I feel it’s easy to see the playing field is much more balanced on the gridiron and could be for other sports as well, even with the establishment of a 4-A or 5-A system.
We participate in two very competitive districts here in Fayetteville and Lincoln County, District’s 9-A and 8-AAA, and the enrollments of the schools are relatively balanced. I feel we owe it to the athletes to keep “apples for apples”. When asked to compete against schools with better than twice their enrollments, I don’t feel like it is a fair playing field and is an issue that can be improved.
The following are the members of area conferences, enrollments and classifications beginning the 2013 fall sports season.
Huntland – 211 students – Classification A in all sports.
Fayetteville High School – 262 students – Classification A in all sports.
Moore County – 295 students – Classification A in all sports.
Middle Tennessee Christian – 364 students – Classification A–AA in football playoffs.
Eagleville – 409 students – Classification A–AA in football playoffs.
Forrest – 476 students – Classification A–AA in football playoffs.
Community – 479 students – Classification A–AA in football playoffs.
Tullahoma – 1.081 students – Class AAA – 5-A in football playoffs.
Lawrence County – 1,130 students – Class AAA – 5-A in football playoffs.
Shelbyville – 1,255 students – Class AAA – 5-A in football playoffs.
Columbia – 1,306 students – Class AAA – 5-A in football playoffs.
Lincoln County – 1,339 students – Class AAA – 5-A in football playoffs (enrollment includes Ninth Grade Academy; there were fewer than 1,000 students on campus at LCHS in 2012).
Franklin County – 1,428 students – Class AAA – 6-A in football playoffs.
Coffee County – 1,626 students – Class AAA – 6-A in football playoffs.
Clearly the gap for Lincoln County High School, a AAA program, is closer to the high Class A schools vs. the higher AAA schools.
The same situation of balance on a state level exist for the majority of other districts – our situation in not unique. I feel the issue warrants open conversation by the TSSAA with the end results a positive change for our student athletes.