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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
MURFREESBORO - An agreement allowing athletes from Martin Luther King to play football at Pearl-Cohn was discussed at length Wednesday before the TSSAA's Legislative Council voted to deny a request to alter the state's co-op program.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association allows member schools to have a cooperative program if one of the schools has not had that sport for the past five years.
The agenda item, submitted by McKenzie High in West Tennessee, asked that the enrollments for all schools that co-ops be added together and a 1.8 multiplier then be added when determining classification.
Pearl-Cohn's enrollment is at 643. M.L. King has an enrollment of 961, but does not offer football. The Firebirds voluntarily played up a class the past four years, participating in Class 4A. They plan on being Class 3A for the next four-year cycle.
The Firebirds reached the Class 4A semifinals last season.
"When you are looking at numbers, there is no way you can tell how many of those student-athletes had an impact," TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said. "We think (the co-op program) is great because it's increasing our participation numbers."
At issue with the council was documentation presented by the TSSAA that showed there were 31 athletes from M.L. King eligible for Pearl-Cohn's 2016 football team.
However, Pearl-Cohn coach Tony Brunetti said that number is skewed. He said during the season it was probably closer to 21. He later added that he had a large senior class from M.L. King, graduating about 10 players.
"The thing is, that's not consistent every year," Brunetti said. "You might get 13. You might get five."
There are 109 co-op programs approved by the TSSAA for the 2016-17 school year.
Legislative Council member Art Crook, the Station Camp principal, said passing legislation to alter the cooperative policy isn't easy as some schools only have a couple athletes that use the program.
"You don't want to come in and make an overall sweeping decision," Crook said. "I guess I didn't realize until I looked at the information how many schools in the state of Tennessee that co-op. And they are at all different sizes."
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-259-8089 and email@example.com or @Kreager.
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