High School Reclassification Stirs Controversy

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

As with any type of change, when the TSSAA released the new district and region alignments, which determine where teams in all sports will compete for the next four years, several area coaches were not happy.

Schools wanting to appeal can do so at the Board of Control meeting on Nov. 17, which will be when the alignments are voted on.

Among the most unhappy contingents of area coaches are the football staffs at Soddy-Daisy, Rhea County and Walker Valley, which were grouped in the same Class 5A region with Knoxville Catholic and Lenoir City. The biggest issue there is having to deal with Knoxville Catholic, the defending 4A state champion, which chose to remain in Division I with the public schools rather than move to Division II along with most other independent schools.

"I don't think any of us are happy about how they've put our region together," said Soddy-Daisy coach Justin Barnes. "I've never had any interaction with them, but I know the word is that nobody in that (Knoxville) area wanted to play them, so they put them with us.

"And now we have to find six nonregion games, and that's tough."

That region grouping reunites Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton with his former team. Pemberton coached Catholic for seven seasons, winning a state title. Having to travel to the Chattanooga area several times a season is a better travel option for Catholic than it would have faced if it had joined D-II.

"There's a difference in traveling to Chattanooga versus going to Memphis," Catholic coach Steve Matthews told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "I just hope we can fill a (nonregion) schedule."

Another new region alignment that will create tougher competition for area teams is in 6A, where Bradley Central, Cleveland, Ooltewah and McMinn County will be grouped with perennial power Maryville, Heritage and William Blount.

"As far as our classification system goes, I hate it," Cleveland coach Scott Cummings said. "We're the fourth smallest school in 6A. This whole system got started because of gas prices, to save money on travel, but I don't know of any coach, in any class across the state, who agrees with this system.

"But as far as our region goes, I've played Maryville for 14 years before coming to Cleveland. I know what they're about and why they are who they are. When I coached at Knox West, it helped us playing them because you learn about yourself and where you need to work, so I think playing the schedule we'll be playing will make us tougher and better."

In other head-scratching moves under the new alignments, Meigs County is no longer in the same region with Chattanooga-area opponents and will compete against Cumberland Gap, Oneida, Rockwood and Wartburg, which will mean more travel. The Tigers were replaced by Tellico Plains in their former region, which includes Bledsoe County, Marion County, Polk County and Tyner.

That means every other year, Marion County will pass Meigs County on its way to a 101-mile trip to Tellico Plains.

Also, Brainerd moved up to 3A and is joined in its new region by Loudon, McMinn Central, Red Bank, Signal Mountain and Sweetwater, which creates more travel for the Hamiton County teams.

Because so many independent schools opted to join Division II for the new alignment period, it has been expanded to three classifications. Baylor and McCallie will be among the 11 teams in DII-AAA, and Boyd-Buchanan, Chattanooga Christian, Christian Academy of Knoxville, Knoxville Grace Christian, Notre Dame, Silverdale Baptist and Knoxville Webb will make up the East Region of Class AA, which will have 19 teams in all.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter@StephenHargis

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November 12, 2016
 
 
 

 

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