After lengthy discussions and debates about the TSSAA football playoff setup for more than a month, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s Board of Control needed just a half hour Monday to decide to keep things the way they are.
Despite a recommendation from TSSAA director Bernard Childress to revert back to the old five-class system, used for the 16 years prior to 2009, the board chose to continue with the current system, which divides the state’s 303 Division I football playing schools into three classes during the regular season before using a six-class division for the playoffs.
While some area coaches and administrators had heard over the weekend the vote was going to be as lopsided as 7-2 or 6-3, when it came down to it Monday the decision was made by a 5-4 vote.
Sequatchie County Principal Tommy Layne, who represents the Southeast Tennessee area on the board, voted to keep the current system. Layne had been one of the board members in the June meeting to request the vote be tabled until July to give time for the members to hear from their respective schools concerning the decision.
Layne said the main reason for his vote to retain the present system was the savings involved in playing regular season games against teams that are closer to one another. He cited the fact that schools like Copper Basin and McMinn County would have had to make 200-plus mile round trips to play region games.
If the vote had gone the other way, Bradley Central, Cleveland and Walker Valley would have been in the same boat, having to travel to Middle Tennessee for league games against teams such as Lincoln, White, Coffee, Franklin and Warren counties.
After holding an area-wide meeting at Red Bank High School in June and hearing from coaches and administrators for the past month, he stated that the vast majority of those in his area prefered to continue with the current setup.
The biggest complaint opponents of the current system have revolves around the playoff seeding as well as the fact that the playoff brackets can’t be set until after the final game of the regular season. Some teams don’t know whether or not they made the playoffs until the brackets are announced, while others don’t know who or where they will be playing until the Saturday before the first playoff Friday.
By deciding to continue with the current setup, plus voting to keep the three-class system in all other sports, football teams will continue play in the same district as they do in all other sports during the regular season.
Bradley, Cleveland and Walker Valley will continue to play in District 5-AAA along with Ooltewah, Soddy-Daisy, McMinn and Rhea counties. When the final fall enrollment numbers are in, and the board sets the districts at its November meeting, East Hamilton is expected to join the 5-AAA ranks.
The current football playoff breakdown has Bradley, McMinn, Soddy-Daisy and Rhea in 6A, while Cleveland, Walker Valley and Ooltewah are in 5A.
Polk County is expected to remain in District 5-AA, with the possibility of losing Meigs County, where enrollment numbers may drop it to Class A. If the Decatur school moves down in classification, another school will have to be added to 5-AA to keep at least five schools in the conference. Sweetwater, McMinn Central and Sequoyah are the other three teams.
With Monday’s vote, the current football playoff system will continue through the 2016 season.