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Q&A with WCHS admin, coach Turner about region appeal
matt turner
Matt Turner has started his first season as WCHS football coach 2-3, including the program's first win over a Rutherford County school since 1997.

Southern Standard sports editor Jeffery Simmons submitted questions to the WCHS administration about Warren County High School deciding to appeal to the TSSAA in hopes of moving regions in football. The appeal was successful (and you can read more about it in the Wednesday, Nov. 23 countywide edition of the Standard). Simmons sent questions to Director of Schools Grant Swallows (who is also on the TSSAA Board of Control), WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore, WCHS principal Chris Hobbs and WCHS football coach Matt Turner. Swallows and Turner responded. Their answers are below:


What was the thoughts of the coaches/administration when the TSSAA initially released its proposed alignment and had moved Warren County back into the matchups with Murfreesboro schools?

 

Turner: My initial thoughts were frustration. Frustrated due to the feeling that based on factors out of our control (location, demographics) we get shifted around from cycle-to-cycle without being asked by the TSSAA what we think could be appropriate action for our students.

I understand schools such as us and Cookeville are unique due to our isolated locations. That is why it is frustrating that the TSSAA doesn’t research us uniquely and ask us what is best, especially when we have to make such travel arrangements and provide the funds to operate. Ask ‘Are we willing and able to travel further if we see that another region may be the best option?’

Consistency and communication are vital in building a program of any sort. Maybe the TSSAA did reach out, however I was not aware. I know they can/do because they have in the past, however it was for a sport that some may consider lesser.

Swallows: I knew going in that there would be changes because three Wilson County schools and several Clarksville-Montgomery schools were moving up. I had thought that all the Rutherford County schools would move into a region together because most other multi-school counties are grouped that way. Obviously, that didn't happen. Honestly, several of our teams had a change in alignment. It is very difficult with a state our size and with so many different configurations.

 

What led to Warren County being one of just seven schools to file an appeal (for football) and who was in the decision making process to ultimately submit?

 

Turner: As for my involvement, I spoke with Todd (Willmore) and Grant (Swallows). We had conversations and discussed the pros and cons of each. I was in agreement that it was worth a shot if we had a case. Todd obviously drafted a convincing argument - hats off to him. At the end of the day 6A football in Middle TN is as good as it gets whether you are in region 3 or 4.

Swallows: Ultimately there were many conversations around the desire to remain with some of the opponents from the last two years. As with many decisions in our district, my conversations took place with our administrative team and they in turn talked with our coaches.

 

Were there any other measures discussed/proposed and, if so, what were those? If there were multiple - what made asking to be moved to Region 6-4A the desired plan of action?

 

Turner: I was only aware of the two options (accept the move or plead a case why we would like to move to region 4) and the one argument that we should drop out all together and schedule 10 independent games. The last option noted, I believe, would be very difficult to schedule without playing the same teams that are within the regions we would be asking to get out of and what are we saying to our kids if we tried to elect to not compete for something.

Swallows: Warren County chose to appeal both volleyball and football because we felt like traveling to Rutherford County wasn't in the best interest of our student-athletes. Class 6A and Region 4 was the logical choice because of the common opponents and that was also influenced by volleyball. Our volleyball team was the only team outside of Rutherford County in that district. The volleyball district that mirrored the desired football region was the best option for that team so we chose to ask that both teams move to a district/region north of Warren County.

 

In these times, many school officials talk about making decision in the best interest of the student-athletes. In that vein, were any ideas/proposals for future scheduling presented to current Pioneers who will be affected by these decisions?

If so, were the kids on board with the current plan of action?

 

Turner: I did not officially ask the current team members but I did have a few conversations and the majority opinion was they felt we had a better chance to compete in Region 4. The only positive for region 3 was the exposure that they may gain by playing Region 3.

Swallows: Personally, the only current student-athlete I spoke to lives in my house. He offered no help other than "I'm just ready to get to play again."

 

What’s the school’s vision for football moving forward and how are we working toward modifying/changing a high school system that has produced losing records in 38 of the last 40 seasons?

 

Turner: My vision remains the same as it has always been: to build and develop a competitive, holistic program for the entire school system that all students benefit from as well as building community cohesion. We have been consistently implementing a system at the high school and middle school level that we must incorporate into our youth. I feel that the next step is to start building and investing in a youth football program. We will have some community meetings over the next few weeks to establish a game plan moving forward with youth football and cheer.

Swallows: I think my vision for football mirrors my vision for all of our school system - I serve in my role in order to create opportunities for student learning through experiences that teach critical thinking, hard work and commitment to excellence. That goes for the classroom, the football field or any place we encounter students. I am as competitive as anyone. I want to win in everything we do. But, my ultimate goal is that we provide great experiences and that students learn from those. It's not all about winning but that winning will come when we commit to doing the right things. Our job is to provide those opportunities and teach our students how to be successful in them.

 

What were there factor(s) that made the prospect of playing in Region 4-6A more palatable than playing in Region 4-6A?

 

Turner: For me, it’s enrollment numbers. This may not matter much but it is what TSSAA basically aligns regions in. We would be the second largest school in Region 4 behind Cookeville. In Region 3, we were just above Siegel and Coffee. Again, this may not make any difference but I believe it is a positive aspect to our student athletes that may help build confidence knowing we are a bigger school in the region.

Secondly, it is something different - A change in direction and a change in who we are competing against. All we have experienced, read about, and heard is how dominant the ‘Boro region is. Stats don’t lie, I agree. However, maybe this change will help to recruit the “Jimmys and Joes” that we need to come out instead of asking them to come and play what everyone has labeled a death sentence against the ‘Boro teams.

Swallows: Region 4 seems to offer the opportunity to compete against teams more similar to Warren County. As I stated, our job is to provide opportunities for students. One thing we know is that in order for football teams to be successful then we need players to buy in and join our team. The conventional mindset is that we have a better chance of that happening by competing in Region 4.

 

Procuring buses for travel has been a consistent issue for all our sports teams in the last few years, including last season when the Pioneers were late arriving to Mt. Juliet - now a region opponent. By Google Map estimates, round trip mileage for Region 3-6A games over the course of two years would be 509 miles and mileage for Region 4-6 games would be 830 miles.

Is there any plan of action the school will enact to mediate any potential issues that could arise from choosing to play in a region with far greater travel burdens?

 

Turner: I would like to work with the school system and football boosters to create a plan once the schedule is out and reserve charter accommodations for the majority of longer trips. These accommodations may be offered through Durham. We have also discussed retaining a couple of buses that the school system already owns and dedicate them to the sole purpose of athletics.

Swallows: Our Athletic Director, Todd Willmore, has offered some solutions to some of our transportation issues. That will take a financial investment by our school district for it to happen. With that said, I have said multiple times, it is our job to give students the opportunity to be successful. Providing transportation is a basic need for that to happen.