Tellico Plains High School and
Sweetwater High School will no longer play each other in football, at
least over the next two years. The decision was made in part, due to
the scheduling of games, district meeting dates, and TSSAA
requirements. Two year contracts factor in as well. This choice is
above all, the individual school's decision, but don't think that
the districts and TSSAA's influence didn't have something to do
Tellico Plains High was set to be moved
into a district with Chattanooga schools, a move that wasn't
embraced by the entire Bears Athletic Department due to travel
Tellico Plains High School Principal Russell Harris always
wanted to continue playing the Wildcats, but understands why the
series has ended for now.
"They wanted us to move to the
Chattanooga district. We ended up back in 3-A, and we had just four
non-district games. We had to make a choice. We do want to play
Sweetwater though," said Harris.
The Bears' former division at the
time of the TSSAA vote, 3-A, had set their meeting for the same day
as the TSSAA annual meeting for realignment. Tellico had been set to
play six non-district games, and just four district games had they
been moved outside of 3-A, which was the recommendation of the TSSAA
just days before the vote. Tellico requested to stay in 3-A. The
request was granted.
The Bears were slated to play in 3-A,
thus throwing a wrench in 3-A's choice to hold their meeting on the
same day as the TSSAA vote. Now, the Bears had to switch gears and
build a football schedule with six district games, and just four
non-district games. If you're doing the math, some schools were
going to be left off the Bears list.
Here is where timing comes into play.
If the TSSAA and district 3-A had held meetings at a another time,
maybe this could have worked out differently. As of now, Sweetwater
was one of the teams cut from the Bears' list, due to contracts
with other schools.
Sweetwater Athletic Director Rex Rhodes
wasn't thrilled with the decision, but still wishes the Bears
"We were set to play them, but things changed. We basically
kept the option open for Tellico, but we had to fill our spot. It's
disappointing, but we wish the Bears well," said Rhodes.
been rumors floating around the county that the schools could
potentially not meet in any sports, starting next year. The Bears and
Wildcats are not in the same district, thus any games in any sport
played between the two, must be scheduled by the schools, not
As of now, the talks to discontinue
play in all sports, is ongoing.
"Discussions are still being had
between both schools on playing each other or not. That's
definitely still on the table," said Rhodes.
It's sad to see a Monroe County
rivalry die in one sport, let alone all sports. At the heart of
this matter, the TSSAA rules are at fault. It's understood the
schools make their own choices, but they are affected by this
The TSSAA has really worked over some
schools in recent years, whether it's allowing a school to make the
playoffs because of an internal error, then deciding to award
another team with a postseason spot, or calling a lineman downfield
by one yard, costing a school a state title.
Regardless of how you feel about the
state's governing body of high school athletics, the fact remains
that the TSSAA hurts more than it helps. The current sanctioned
playoff format rewards schools that play and win against schools from
this state. Makes sense right?
Tellico's choice to drop Sweetwater
actually hurts them because they have a game scheduled with Andrews,
N. C., which will not count for or against them. Sweetwater has
filled their spot with a team from Tennessee. If 3-A had held their
meetings at another time, maybe after the TSSAA vote, then maybe
Tellico wouldn't have had to make two schedules for two
separate districts by the time the meeting was held.
In two years, the current contracts
will run out, and potentially the football game could be renewed.
a choice is made to drop all sports though, it could be a while
before we see the Bears and Wildcats play in any sport. That is sad
for the schools and Monroe County. What's really sad is how the
TSSAA can still affect schools in such a powerful way. A Monroe
County rivalry is gone for the next two years, and that's set in
If the schools decide to discontinue
all sporting events together, then Monroe County suffers. Schools 18
miles apart should play each other, but the schools' choices were
affected directly by the TSSAA's timing, votes, and playoff rules.
That fact has made Highway 68, a little bit longer--at least two
years longer. And, unfortunately for Monroe County the distance
between the Sweetwater and Tellico is growing.