(Part 2 of an interview with TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress)
By Steve Williams
In what is believed to be an unprecedented move, the TSSAA Board of Control in February left the door open for Austin-East and Chattanooga Brainerd boys’ basketball programs to take the steps to have their postseason bans reduced from two years to one year.
“Our staff left the Board meeting that day feeling good about the decision the Board made,” recalled TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress at this year’s state tourney in Murfreesboro.
“For the first time, the Board gave schools the opportunity to implement things to create a positive culture and come back and show they had done those things and see if the Board would reconsider.
“It’s the first time to my knowledge that the Board has done that.”
Austin-East and Brainerd were banned from this year’s state tournament after being involved in what some called a “brawl” that broke out in their game in Chattanooga on Jan. 27. At the time, A-E was ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AA in the AP poll and Brainerd No. 5.
After unsportsmanlike conduct occurred on the floor, some spectators came on the court and reportedly made the incident worse. Game officials stopped play with 2:20 left in the first half and Brainerd ahead 36-32. The TSSAA ruled the game a no-contest.
“It looks like we’re going to take what was a very unfortunate incident, and in the long run, it’s going to be a positive,” said Childress. “I have all the faith that those administrators at Austin-East as well as Brainerd are going to do exactly what they outlined for the Board that said what they were going to do. And that would be a positive.”
Principal Nathan Langlois and athletic director Alvin Armstead presented A-E’s plan to the Board of Control.
“It’s about teaching young people that they’re going to experience struggles in their life, but you can always turn a negative into a positive if you work at it,” continued Childress.
“Not only will it be something that they can be proud of in their own communities and their own athletic programs, but it will be a footprint as we go forward in the (TSSAA) organization.
“We could say, ‘Look, this is what these schools did.’ We had an unsportsmanlike incident, but you can turn this into a positive. We can all go out there and compete and have fun and not get into those type situations ever again.”
Childress said it could be a “great example” to all member schools in the TSSAA.
“We have all the confidence that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” he added.
Austin-East and Brainerd representatives are scheduled to meet with the Board of Control again in June. If the Board rules favorably, the Roadrunners and Panthers will return to postseason tournament play in 2019.
Childress said Board members were impressed by the A-E administrators’ presentation Feb. 8, the way they took responsibility for everything that had happened and their outline of things they wanted to do to change the culture not just in their athletic program but in their community.
“There were even some comments from Board members after they presented their appeal,” said Childress.
“Some of the Board members commented that it was one of the better appeals that we’ve heard. That says a lot.”