TSSAA decision hits nerve with local coaches

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Not too many things make Elizabethton High School track and football coach Tommy Jenkins upset.
   One those things happens to be what the TSSAA did this week.
   The TSSAA Board of Control voted to move the TSSAA Spring Fling from Chattanooga to Memphis, leaving people from Northeast Tennessee over 500 miles of travel to get to the events.
   The Spring Fling consists of the state championships in baseball, soccer, track, softball and tennis.
   Memphis will host the event for at least three years.
   The move to Memphis looks to be very hard on teams from this end of the state. Times are tough financially right now for a lot of families, and it doesn't look to get better any time soon.
   Jenkins thinks this will be a hard thing for schools like Elizabethton.
   "It's going to have a tremendous effect," Jenkins said. "Not only on our school, but also the county schools. Families are looking at having to take a vacation. Somebody from our school in track could go to Chattanooga and come back in one day, but they can't do that going to Memphis. It's closer to go to Canada. It surprises me they chose to do this."
   Johnson County football and track coach Mike Atwood is not too pleased with the decision either, but he says they'll make the trip if anybody makes it to the state.
   "We're not happy about that," Atwood said. "But it's the stuff they have to do. I'm sure they had their reasons. If we have anybody make it, we'll make the drive down there."
   The decision to move the Spring Fling was kind of shocking to most people. Chattanooga did all they could to keep it, including making renovations to the Engel Stadium baseball facility.
   It's a decision that puzzles Jenkins.
   "I don't know what the TSSAA is looking for," Jenkins said. "Chattanooga did a good job. I wish Johnson City or Kingsport had put in a bid, and would have won."
   Atwood thinks if Memphis has it, then the tables should be turned in a few years.
   "If they have it in Memphis, then they should have it up here for awhile," Atwood said. "I don't want to be treated better than anybody else, but I at least want to be treated fairly."
   The other cities that put forth bids on the Spring Fling were Jackson, Chattanooga and Nashville.
   "Chattanooga was great," Atwood said. "Nashville would have been all right. But having it in Memphis is not fair for the kids up here."
   Jenkins is counting on support from Elizabethton High School's Athletic Parents Organization to help alleviate the high costs.
   "Money is tight right now," Jenkins said. "With the APO and other fund raising groups here, we can discuss these problems."
   Since track is not a money-making sport, Atwood will have to look into other sports budgets to be able to get the necessary cash.
   "We'll probably have to take money out of the football budget," Atwood said. "There's no way the track budget could pay for it."
   While money will be a concern for people like Jenkins and Atwood, the TSSAA will raking in the dough from Memphis' bid to get the Spring Fling.
   Atwood suspects that it was a money making decision.
   "It probably was," Atwood said. "I don't know everything that was involved, but if I was a betting man, I would say yes."