If North and South merge, what happens to sports?

Pat Kenney • Mar 13, 2013 at 4:56 AM

KINGSPORT — What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association.The recent proposal to possibly consolidate Sullivan North and Sullivan South into one new high school has created quite a stir.And it isn’t just the Bloomingdale and Colonial Heights communities that took notice.“Making a change like this at this time has some major implications,” said TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress. “Because we just set the enrollment numbers for classification last fall, this new school would be in an awkward position.” As a new school with a new name, it would have to apply to the TSSAA for a new ID number. And that’s where the trouble starts.North, with an enrollment of approximately 540 students, plays football in Class 3A, while South, at 960 students, dropped from 5A to 4A last fall and will join the Raiders in the Three Rivers Conference next fall.Consolidated, the two schools would project an enrollment of 1,500 students, which would jump the new school up to 6A.“Since the football contracts run on a two-year cycle that just started last fall,” said Childress. “A new school would have trouble finding football games to play because everyone has set their schedules.“And if they don’t play everyone in their district, they wouldn’t be eligible for the football postseason playoffs,” added Childress.To that end, Childress called Sullivan County Superintendent of Schools Jubal Yennie last Thursday to discuss the matter.“I explained that it wouldn’t be fair to the kids,” said Childress. “Even if the new school could find games to play, all their work wouldn’t be rewarded with the possibility of postseason.” But a rose by any other name. ...Childress explained that if the consolidation goes forward at this time there is another option.“All they have to do is keep the school’s name the same for at least two years,” said Childress. “After two years, we always revisit the enrollment numbers and make adjustments according to our 20 percent rule.” Schools that have increased or decreased enrollment by 20 percent can be reassigned districts based on their new size.“Whichever school, North or South, becomes the new high school, they just have to keep that same name,” added Childress. “That allows the school to continue to play a varsity football schedule next season. That seems like the best way to solve the problem.” Sort of.The Three Rivers Conference, expecting Sullivan South with 960 students, would have to compete with a school with 1,500.“We’ll probably expect to have some pushback from the schools in the Three Rivers Conference,” said Childress. “But this would seem to be the best way to go for the next couple of years.” Sullivan South Athletic Director Anthony Richardson liked the TSSAA’s take on the situation.“We were hoping that would be the way it would turn out,” said Richardson. “We just keep our current school ID for the next two years, and then when the 20 percent rule kicks in we change the name, mascot, colors and everything.”The proposal by the TSSAA caught Sullivan North Principal Richard Carroll off guard.“That’s the first time I’ve heard that idea,” said Carroll. “Earlier in the week that was never brought up.”Carroll’s concern is more about the consolidation itself.“We still have issues with this,” said Carroll. “When you consolidate you eliminate positions for kids. Some won’t be making teams.“We have a lot of kids who are motivated in the classroom so they can play sports,” added Carroll. “You take away that opportunity and we may lose some of those kids.”As far as the superintendent’s office is concerned, nothing is yet set in stone.“Our decision in this matter is based on budget shortfall, annexation, academic and other considerations,” said Yennie. “Obviously, there are still some questions to be answered.”

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