The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association appears to be putting into practice the age-old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”
Once again the governing body of high school athletics in the state is proposing a change to the much-maligned football playoff system that has been in place for the past five years.
At its Board of Control meetings, held earlier this week in Murfreesboro, three proposals for the postseason system were presented — keep the current plan with a few tweaks to the tie-breaker criteria, revert to the old five-class system, last used in 2008, or go with a modified six-class system that would separate the 32 largest schools into their own division, then divide the remaining schools into five other classifications.
After much discussion, Board of Control members voted to table the issue until their August meeting, to give them time to present the plan to their respective schools in order to get input before making a final decision.
Under the new hybrid six-class proposal recommended by the TSSAA directors, teams would play in regions during the regular season, rather than the current district system, which is then divided by school size for the playoff format.
Class 6A would be reduced from its current 56 teams, with 32 teams making the playoffs, to the 32 schools with the largest enrollments playing in four regions during the regular season, all qualifying for the postseason, regardless of their records. The TSSAA currently uses this system for its Division-II, Class AA playoffs, which only has 11 football playing schools.
Under the current enrollment numbers Class 6A would include: Antioch, Arlington, Bartlett, Bearden, Blackman, Bolton, Collierville, Cookeville, Cordova, Dobyns-Bennett, Farragut, Franklin, Germantown, Hardin Valley, Houston, Jefferson County, John Overton, LaVergne, McGavock, Mount Juliet, Oakland, Ravenwood, Riverdale, Science Hill, Sevier County, Siegel, Smyrna, Warren County, White Station, Whitehaven, William Blount and Wilson Central. No team from the Southeast Tennessee area would be included in the division.
The remaining 273 football schools would be divided into five classifications, with eight regions, with the top four teams of each making the playoffs. Postseason spots would be determined by region records rather than the current system, which is based on a team’s overall record.
Little would actually change for Bradley County schools, with all three being placed in Region 4-5A, along with current District 5-AAA members Ooltewah, Soddy-Daisy and McMinn County.
The only change would be the reversal of last year’s exchange of Rhea County for East Hamilton. The Golden Eagles would rejoin their old league, while the Hurricanes, which won the 5-AAA regular season crown last fall, would be placed in Region 3-4A, along with Chattanooga Central, Hixson, Cumberland County, Sequoyah, Stone Memorial and White County.
Polk County would also drop from a 3A team to Class 2A, playing in Region 3 along with Bledsoe County, Boyd-Buchanan, Marion County, Meigs County, Silverdale Baptist Academy, Tellico Plains and Tyner Academy.
Copper Basin would be in a region that spans more than 170 miles, which includes Fayetteville and Moore County. The other teams in Region 3-1A would be Grace Baptist Academy, Huntland, Lookout Valley, South Pittsburg and Whitwell.
While the TSSAA proposal would divide each of the five smaller classifications into eight regions across the state, the number of teams in the regions aren’t balanced.
Of the 40 proposed regions, 15 would have eight teams in them, 10 would have six and seven would include seven squads. However, on the outer extremes of the lists, Region 3-3A would have 10 teams, while Region 1-1A only four, meaning all four would make the playoffs. The other half dozen regions would be made up of just five teams each, resulting in all but one team qualifying for the postseason.
One of the chief complaints of the old five class system was the high number of teams making the playoff with sub-.500 records, some even getting in with just one or two victories during the regular season. Under the new proposal, the same could result again with the inequality of teams in each region.
Whichever way the BOC decides to go could become a moot point as the organization’s Legislative Council, which is in charge of changing bylaws and rules, is currently considering a complete split of public and private schools in Tennessee, which would require yet another restructuring of all TSSAA districts and regions.
Here are TSSAA projections for what the new regions in Division I, classes 1A-5A could look like:
Region 1: Cocke County, Daniel Boone, David Crockett, Morristown East, Morristown West
Region 2: Campbell County, Karns, Halls, Oak Ridge, Powell
Region 3: Heritage, Catholic, Lenoir City, Maryville, Seymour, West
Region 4: Bradley Central, Cleveland, McMinn County, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Soddy-Daisy, Walker Valley
Region 5: Cane Ridge, Coffee County, Columbia Central, Franklin County, Glencliff, Lincoln County, Shelbyville Central, Stewarts Creek
Region 6: Beech, Gallatin, Hendersonville, Hillwood, Hunters Lane, Lebanon, Station Camp
Region 7: Brentwood, Centennial, Clarksville, Dickson County, Henry County, Independence, Rossview, West Creek
Region 8: Brighton, Kirby, Memphis Central, Millington Central, Munford, Overton, Southwind, Wooddale
Region 1: Cherokee, Grainger, Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, Sullivan South, Tennessee, Volunteer
Region 2: Anderson County, Carter, Clinton, Fulton, Gibbs, Central, South-Doyle, Union County
Region 3: Chattanooga Central, Cumberland County, East Hamilton, Hixson, Sequoyah, Stone Memorial, White County
Region 4: Hillsboro, Lawrence County, Lipscomb, Spring Hill, Summit, Tullahoma
Region 5: Livingston Academy, Macon County, Maplewood, Portland, White House, Whites Creek
Region 6: Creek Wood, Kenwood, Montgomery Central, Northeast, Northwest, Springfield
Region 7: Dyer County, Dyersburg, Hardin County, Haywood, Jackson North Side, Lexington, Obion County, Ripley
Region 8: Craigmont, Fayette-Ware, Hamilton, Kingsbury, Melrose, Ridgeway
Region 1: Chuckey-Doak, Elizabethton, Greeneville, Johnson County, Unicoi County, West Greene
Region 2: York, CAK, Claiborne, Gatlinburg-Pittman, Kingston, Loudon, Pigeon Forge, Scott
Region 3: Brainerd, Chattanooga Christian, East Ridge, Grundy, Howard, McMinn Central, Notre Dame, Red Bank, Sequatchie, Signal Mountain
Region 4: Cannon County, DeKalb County, Fairview, Giles County, Marshall County, Page, Upperman
Region 5: Cheatham County, CPA, East Nashville, Greenbrier, Pearl-Cohn, Stewart County, Stratford, Sycamore
Region 6: Covington, Crockett County, Liberty, South Gibson, Westview
Region 7: Bolivar, Chester County, JCM, Jackson South Side, McNairy Central
Region 8: Fairley, Frederick Douglass, Memphis East, Raleigh-Egypt, Sheffield, Trezevant
Region 1: Cosby, Cumberland Gap, Hampton, Happy Valley, South Greene, Sullivan North
Region 2: Alcoa, Austin-East, Grace, Oliver Springs, Rockwood, Sweetwater, Wartburg
Region 3: Bledsoe, Boyd-Buchanan, Marion County, Meigs County, Polk County, Silverdale, Tellico Plains, Tyner
Region 4: Cascade, Community, Eagleville, Forrest, Jackson County, Smith County
Region 5: East Hickman, East Robertson, Goodpasture, Harpeth, Hickman County, Westmoreland, White House Heritage
Region 6: Adamsville, Camden, Decatur, Houston, Lewis County, Loretto, Scotts Hill, Waverly
Region 7: Gibson County, JCS, Milan, Peabody, Trinity Christian
Region 8: BTW, Frayser, GW Carver, Hillcrest, Manassas, Mitchell, Oakhaven, Westwood
Region 1: Cloudland, Hancock County, North Greene, Unaka
Region 2: Coalfield, Greenback, Harriman, Jellico, Midway, Oakdale, Oneida, Sunbright
Region 3: Copper Basin, Fayetteville, Grace Baptist Academy, Huntland, Lookout Valley, Moore County, South Pittsburg, Whitwell
Region 4: Clay County, Gordonsville, MTCS, Monterey, Pickett County, Red Boiling Springs, Trousdale, Watertown
Region 5: Collinwood, Columbia Academy, Cornersville, Mount Pleasant, Perry County, Richland, Summertown, Wayne County
Region 6: Clarksville Academy, Bruceton, Huntingdon, Jo Byrns, McEwen, Nashville Christian
Region 7: Dresden, Gleason, Greenfield, Lake County, McKenzie, South Fulton, Union City, West Carroll
Region 8: Halls, Humboldt, Memphis Academy of Health/Sciences, Memphis North Side, Middleton.