The first shoe fell Thursday when the TSSAA officially announced the 32 schools which will make up the 6A football class next year. Now, Warren County High School administration members are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Athletic director Todd Willmore is still awaiting word on how the regions will be configured for next year. In the meantime, Willmore – like most Pioneer fans – waits with a bit of frustration as things are still being sorted out.
“There have been a number of scenarios mentioned for Warren County and where we might end up, but unfortunately all are pure speculation,” said Willmore. “That has been one of the most frustrating parts of this whole process. Regardless of where we end up, it would be nice to have some sort of indication.”
Not knowing the details from the TSSAA isn’t from a lack of effort by Willmore and the WCHS administration. Willmore has spoken to members of the TSSAA several times over the course of the football season.
Those talks, along with phone calls and petitions from Pioneer fans, had the TSSAA listening to what Warren County had to say.
“We have spoken with TSSAA officials a number of times regarding which option would be best for our football program. They have been sympathetic to our situation, but ultimately it boils down to enrollment numbers and geography,” said Willmore. “Like many educational programs, I believe the intent is good, but it may take some time to ensure it is fair and equitable for all involved."
A positive the TSSAA pointed out from its initial decision is all 32 teams will automatically qualify for the playoffs. Warren County hasn’t played in the postseason since 2008 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 1983. Willmore isn’t in full agreement with the TSSAA turning an automatic playoff berth into a positive though.
“I’m not sure I agree with all 'Super 32' teams making the playoffs,” said Willmore. “It is our job as coaches to ensure our student-athletes understand the importance of perseverance and grit. If we give them the impression it is fine to coast to the end of a practice, game, or season, I do not believe our players will be properly prepared or motivated physically and mentally to perform at their best.”
Of course, the move to 6A could be a temporary change.
“There are a number of schools whose enrollment numbers will continue to rise the next two years. Several 5A schools would probably like to move up too, but will wait and see how it all plays out before they consider making the move,” said Willmore.
The district alignments put in place two years ago are scheduled to be revisited following the 2016-17 school year.
Knowing geography will play a big part in deciding how the regions will be drawn up, Willmore says, “It’s not hard to figure out where we’ll be.” Warren County is likely to face some, or all four, of the Murfreesboro schools which will be in the 6A region.
The original plan was to divide the 32 teams into four regions, but Willmore prefers the idea of eight four-team regions.
“The one scenario I believe would be more appealing for us is dividing the Super 32 into eight regions, which would enable each team to play their regional opponents and complete their schedule with the other regions and/or traditional rivalries,” said Willmore.
Willmore expects to know soon which region Warren County will be placed in and will have one week to petition for a change. The TSSAA is asking all schools for their input, but only if it presents a logical alternative for all schools.
“We have to be a problem solver, not a problem creator. We would have to propose a viable option that is fair and equitable to all schools, not just Warren County."