TSSAA delays decision on private schools

Mar. 12, 2014 @ 08:13 PM

The debate over where private schools belong in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s postseason system isn’t over yet.

The TSSAA’s Legislative Council voted to table a proposal that would have removed private schools from postseason competition with public schools on Wednesday. Private schools currently can compete with public schools in Division I as long as they don’t provide need-based financial aid.  The TSSAA will create a study committee to gather more information about the proposal.

Pigeon Forge athletic director Jim Lethco said putting private schools in a separate division would be a good move.

“We’re in a situation that it affects us being a smaller school more than larger schools,” Lethco said. “We’re competing with (Christian Academy of Knoxville) and Catholic for the opportunity to go to state. …  I think the private schools are dominating right now.”

The council also decided to put off a decision on adding lacrosse as a varsity sport, preferring to take no action yet on a proposal authored in part by Seymour High School. The group did approve adding girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport, a move that pleased Tigers wrestling coach Greg Foreman.

“It’s been one of those things where it’s been stagnant for last three or four years,” Foreman said. “It’s one thing to be a recognized sport and another thing to have a legitimate state tournament. It’s just giving it legitimacy.”

Foreman said being sanctioned should result in a rise in participants to the point where he expects, within three to five years, there will be enough girls wrestling to justify a team, or dual, state tournament modeled after the boys competition.

Currently there is just an invitational individual state tournament.

“In my opinion, it’s a great thing for wrestling as a sport, as a whole,” he said. “We’ve got the foundation under girls wrestling, Now, we need to follow through.”

Wednesday’s action would create greater access to the state tournament for girls, Foreman said.

Lethco said the proposed public/private split would improve access to state tournaments across all sports.

Both Pigeon Forge and neighboring Gatlinburg-Pittman have had trouble getting past private schools in multiple sports in an effort to reach state-level competitions.