TSSAA agrees to reduced Peabody football sanctions

By Crystal Burns

TSSAA Director Bernard Childress met with Peabody football coach Shane Jacobs last week and agreed to reduced self-imposed sanctions for the Tide team.

Jacobs met with Childress Feb. 14 to get clarity on the TSSAA recruiting rule Jacobs inadvertently violated when he invited eighth graders from Trenton Rosenwald Middle School and their parents to a “signing day” meeting at Peabody.

Peabody’s new sanctions are:

  • fall scrimmages are reduced from four to three for the next two years;
  • Peabody will not be allowed to practice during the first week of summer;
  • Jacobs will not be allowed to work with eight graders on their conditioning for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year;
  • Jacobs will delete all social media for two years;
  • Peabody’s administration will meet with the TSSAA to schedule a professional development meeting to educate the entire athletic department on the recruiting rule to ensure violations do not occur in the future.

With the reduced sanctions, Peabody does not lose any spring practices, and Peabody ninth graders will be eligible to play with the varsity team.

“It was a very good meeting,” Jacobs said. “I thought Bernard Childress was very personable. He was very understanding.”

Jacobs explained how the rules violation was reported and what caused him to write such stiff sanctions. He said another TSSAA representative, Richard McWherter, contacted Peabody principal Rickey Hooker to notify him that Jacobs had violated a rule that states the varsity coach cannot have contact with eighth grade students. Jacobs spoke with McWherter on the phone to explain that the purpose of the “signing day” event was to encourage TRMS students to participate in high school football. He said he believes after-school activities are good for all students, and he hoped to persuade at least six to eight kids, who might have been on the fence about football, to participate.

Jacobs viewed TRMS as a “feeder” school for Peabody, but McWherter informed him that TSSAA does not recognize feeder schools, and, for TSSAA purposes, Peabody does not have a middle school that can be associated with its varsity sports programs.

McWherter told Jacobs that his team could lose eligibility in the 2018 postseason unless he provided a list of acceptable reprimands to the TSSAA. McWherter sent Jacobs an example involving the Giles County football team. In that incident, the head coach had an extensive conversation with a student who played football for Marshall County to coerce the student to play for Giles County.

“This is nothing like we did,” Jacobs said.

But because he feared missing the playoffs, Jacobs listed sanctions similar to those that Giles County imposed. Childress agreed the penalties were too harsh and advised Jacobs to send the same sanctions TSSAA accepted from South Gibson County last week. The SGC football program received a TSSAA inquiry after Head Coach Scott Stidham and his staff hosted a “signing day” with current eighth graders at Medina Middle School.

Jacobs said that he does not agree with the interpretation of the TSSAA recruiting rule because he believes it punishes rural school districts, but because he writes policy for the Trenton Special School District, he understands TSSAA’s position.

“We’re a community, and our intentions were to involve our community more with the program,” Jacobs said. “It’s difficult for TSSAA to write policies that look out for rural schools.”

In an official letter to Jacobs, the TSSAA described the rule violation as obviously inadvertent.

“I don’t agree that we’re held to the same standards as metro schools,” Jacobs said. “We’re going to play by all of the rules. It’s important to me that we maintain a good relationship with the TSSAA.”

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