By MURPHY FAIR
The days of six classes of Division I high school football in Tennessee may be numbered. Now in its fifth year of existence, the current classification plan has survived despite a great deal of criticism. That could all change, however, when the T.S.S.A.A. Board of Control revisits the issue in November of next year.
That's the word from T.S.S.A.A. Executive Director Bernard Childress who has said the plan is still controversial and a hot topic among coaches, administrators and board members.
"I cannot gauge, based on conversations with board members, how they may vote. I can tell you that they definitely want to look at this after we've been in this current classification period of two years. They have instructed us (TSSAA staff) to bring it back to them."
Anyone who follows high school football in Tennessee knows how confusing the new plan has been, especially when it came time to select teams for the playoffs. Teams have been divided into three classes during the regular season and then split into six groups for the playoffs. In the four years under the new plan, major mistakes have been found regarding playoff selection.
Coaches have had their own issues, too, citing the unfairness of 1A, 3A and 5A teams having to compete with 2A, 4A and 6A teams, respectively, in order to gain access to the postseason.
Despite all the negative issues the plan has brought to the sport, there are still board members who support it. Some schools they represent have been more successful in the postseason than they were prior to its creation.
"There are still some board members who are hesitant (to go back to the old plan) because there are schools at the 5A level that have been very successful," continued Childress.
Coaches, principals and superintendents have all been surveyed and most prefer going back to the five-class plan that served the state from 1993 through the 2008.
"Sixty percent of the coaches that responded to our survey recommended that we go back to five classes," said Childress. That survey was conducted this past spring. A similar survey of superintendents found 59 percent of school directors also preferred the five-class plan. Principals were pretty well split 50-50.
I always found it difficult to understand why the five-class plan was changed in the first place. The old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" was cited hundreds of times after the switch four years ago. Whatever the board decides to do will give people like me plenty to talk and write about in the future. And for that, I'm thankful.
Murphy Fair has published Tennessee High School Football for 25 years. His statewide syndicated radio show (Murphy’s Matchups) can be heard locally Fridays just before kickoff on WBRY.).