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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is investigating allegations made by former Memphis Trezevant principal Ronnie Mackin that numerous rules were violated by its powerhouse football program.
In his six-page resignation letter, emailed Thursday, among the allegations Mackin made was that he was told to cover up numerous illegal and unethical wrongdoings, including players' grades on report cards not matching the grades that appeared on their eligibility transcripts. Also, he wrote, the school turned in an inaccurate enrollment to prevent it from having to play in a higher classification, and Bears head football coach Teli White paid families of star athletes to attend Trezevant and recruited players from other schools.
Mackin also accused White of selling donated T-shirts to students for $10 each. White was dismissed as coach in February for what Mackin cited as "reasons detrimental to THS and conduct unbecoming a tenured head football coach."
Last year was Mackin's first as principal at Trezevant. In his resignation letter, which he also sent to the TSSAA offices, Mackin stated that one player admitted Coach White had paid his family to keep him enrolled at Trezevant and that White promised to "take care of the grades" for the students.
According to Mackin the school's reported enrollment was about 250 fewer students than actually attend the school. That falsifying of enrollment records would keep the Bears in Class 2A, where they won their second consecutive state championship last season, rather than being moved up to 4A. The Bears defeated Marion County for each of those last two state titles.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said the state's prep sports governing body is looking into the allegations, but he added that Mackin's charge of falsifying enrollment figures is not true.
"We don't take enrollments from the schools. That would be the dumbest thing in our history," Childress said. "For obvious reasons we would never take the word of a principal or coach as to what their enrollment is. We get our information from the state Department of Education and use their figures to determine classification for our schools.
"If Trezevant had turned in an enrollment of 250 fewer students than what they actually have, we would have discovered it when we cross-referenced it by the Department of Education's figures. The only way to fix enrollments is if Shelby County board of education and the state Department of Education had lied to us."
Childress added that the TSSAA investigated academic fraud charges at Trezevant last year but found no evidence.
"We looked into the academic fraud last fall and were not able to produce any documentation showing there were any athletes involved," Childress said. "We worked with the Shelby County board of education to pull the individual records of every student in every sport, not just football, for the last four years. They found some issues with several students' grades, but not athletes.
"I don't remember anything like this ever coming across my desk, so of course we are reopening an investigation into each of these allegations. But remember you're dealing with allegations. We want to find factual information, some new information that can be proven and not just react to allegations."
Trezevant did have to forfeit one win last season for playing an ineligible player. But according to Childress, that was a separate issue than the allegations of academic fraud.
Also included among the accusations Mackin made in his resignation letter was that while he was attending a national signing day ceremony inside the school, for seven Trezevant football players signing college scholarships, his 2012 Suburban was vandalized by two senior football players, including having the racial slur "white boy bitch ass" spray-painted in black and gold letters on his car. Mackin said two teachers had encouraged the players to vandalize his car and had provided them with their classroom keys to re-enter the building.
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected] or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis
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