By Tennessean High School Sports at USATodayHSS.com
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Legislative Council will receive four options next month when it meets June 11 in a work session to discuss public and private schools continuing to play in the same division.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said the information came out of a special-formed committee of administrators and coaches from public and private schools. The committee met for more than a year.
The options are:
• Keep the current system the way it is. Schools that provide need-based financial aid will remain in Division II. The remaining schools compete in Division I, although any school still can opt to be in Division II.
• Move all schools together for the regular season, then separate all private and public schools in the postseason.
• Move all schools together and determine classes by success on the field, regardless of school size, which would change every one, two or four years.
• Complete split in regular season and postseason.
“The decision made could definitely change the landscape of the TSSAA,” Childress said. “It is a huge decision. Our job as a staff is to provide and educate as much information for the Council that they can make an informed decision. That is why we have requested this study session.”
Childress said he will request a special-called July meeting for the Legislative Council to decide what it wants to do. A change would not happen until the next classification period beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
“We just ask that the decision be made before school starts,” Childress said. “If there is a total split, we have to start over in every sport, and every class that we have. We’ve got to look at what is the proper number of classes that we need to have for that particular sport.
“That would be in Division I and Division II. That would be a huge undertaking.”
At the root of the debate is whether it is truly equal competition for private schools to play public schools, Childress said.
“If we do stay, we’ll have those upset that feel it’s not a ‘level playing field,’ however they define it,” he said.
However, if the Council did vote on a complete split, Childress pointed out that those public schools remaining in Division I would be readjusted in each classification. That could mean successful programs in one class may be bumped down a class to keep the classifications equal in number.
Childress said the staff also will address what could be the larger issue. Is this is about public vs. private, or is it about open-zoned schools vs. schools with defined geographic zones?
Childress said the TSSAA staff has looked at 16,000 postseason contests in all sports that the association sanctions. Schools with open enrollment won more than 60 percent of the time.
Open enrollment schools include private schools, charter schools, magnet schools or schools that don’t have a distinct boundary.
“I think that is the issue that every state in the national federation is dealing with,” Childress said. “We’ll have information that we’ll share at that time in what other states have done and are doing now along the lines of public-private and boundary vs. non-boundary schools.”