When I proposed Friday that the Pioneers petition for a non-region schedule following the TSSAA’s decision to again lump our football program in with Rutherford County teams, it wasn’t just for competitive reasons. I had ulterior motives.
Mainly, I think it’s time WCHS pushes back against the TSSAA. The state obviously doesn’t care about pushing the Pioneers around the state.
Over 12 years covering sports, I’ve seen WCHS sent everywhere for district and region games. The squads crossed time zones into Rhea County, headed up to Crossville, battled ‘Boro schools and duked it out at the Alabama border with Lincoln County.
Now, the TSSAA wants Warren County’s athletes to head all over the map once again. The football and volleyball teams will get their mileage in going to Murfreesboro, while the basketball, baseball and softball teams will get to make 200-mile round trips to Columbia a couple times a season.
Why does WCHS keep getting tossed around like the homemade charcuterie board your great aunt thought would be a hit at Dirty Santa? Well, the TSSAA would say it’s because of our school size, but I say it’s because the state values cash more than competitiveness. It’s been proven over and over too.
They keep grouping schools together based on size, adding more classifications (of which we’ll always be in the biggest) and racking in cash from the gates of the hundreds of playoff games each year.
There’s really no reason for our state to have six classifications in football (nine when adding in private institutions), other than the TSSAA gets to add 32 more playoff teams, get the gate for 31 more games and have an extra championship game to sell to the highest bidder.
Ever since the state introduced the Power 32 in 2015, there have been multiple teams in the playoffs with losing records in 6A. Over eight years, 44 teams made it with losing records, including a 0-10 team back in the inaugural year and one-win teams the last two years (including us in 2021).
Now, we’re even losing our region rivalry game with Cookeville as well. This is ridiculous. If the lone punishment for the Pioneers going to a non-region schedule is the inability to make the playoffs, then do it. Our projected region is already a barrier to playoff bids in the near future anyway.
At least now we’d get to pick the teams we want to play instead of the TSSAA picking for us. We can bank cash saved in gas money and money from when close, exciting games against appropriate area foes pack the stands.
We’ll need that money too. When we get back to the playoffs, the TSSAA will always be there to shake us down.