Following a flurry of allegations of coaching misconduct, Marion County High School's administration has informed the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) that it will cancel its 2014 spring football practice.
TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress, responding to Marion County principal Larry Ziegler, agreed with the school's decision to cancel spring practice, which usually concludes with the annual Purple and White game. Additionally, the school will observe a four-week dead period from June 15 until July 12, 2014, when football prayers are usually in strength and training programs. The sanctions do not affect the school's 2014 regular season schedule.
Head coach Mac McCurry and assistants Michael Schmitt and Joe Dan Gudger, all faculty members are no longer involved with the football program. McCurry resigned from the school district, while Schmitt and Gudger are on administrative leave with pay, on the advice of counsel. Court hearings are scheduled for later this month. A volunteer assistant coach, Tim Starkey, was relieved of his duties as well. All are implicated in a series of incidents, including the alleged theft of playbooks and game film from opposing schools, the use of a college player to participate in high school practice and vandalism of the Marion County football field house.
Superintendent Mark Griffith said, "I wish the players didn't have to be penalized by losing their practice time, because this is an adult issue. But we're doing what we have to do to keep this football program alive, and get past this. We have over forty good applicants for this head coaching position, and we want to make sure whoever we get understands the sanctions, and that we can start fresh next fall."
In his response to Marion County High, TSSAA executive director Childress states in part:
"The administration at Marion County High School has taken the following action:
1. Marion County High School will be canceling the 2014 Spring Practice in football.
2. Marion County High School's football program will observe a four-week Dead Period during the summer of 2014. The Dead Period will start on Sunday, June 15, and continue through Saturday, July 12.
After considering the facts, this case is being closed in the following manner:
TSSAA accepts the action taken by the Marion County High School administration. Because of the steps taken by the school, we find no need to take any further disciplinary action. The case is being closed accordingly.
According to the information submitted, a few coaches allegedly broke into the field house at South Pittsburg High School and took some game film and playbooks. This situation has been turned over to the police department. It is a criminal case involving school personnel which is beyond the authority of TSSAA. However, it is our understanding that the coaches involved have been relieved of their coaching duties at the school."