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Playoffs begin tonight without Fayetteville City

REGIONAL NEWS | Sports — The TSSAA playoffs will kick off tonight … without Region 5A’s undefeated regular season team. Last Tuesday, the TSSAA denied Fayetteville City School’s appeal regarding the eligibility of a student-athlete. That denial put a final period on their varsity football season.

Team forced to forfeit six games

The move follows a series of up-and-down events for the Fayettevile High School Tigers. Last September, they received what they interpreted as approval for a transfer player from Alabama to play in the 2019-20 season. That letter, from TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress, stated that, “Based on the information obtained by our office, TSSAA can confirm that the (redacted) family has had a bona fide change of address into the Fayetteville High School zone.”

But TSSAA officials claim that letter only referred to the student-athlete’s move from Alabama to Lincoln County. On October 15, the TSSAA contacted the Fayetteville School System regarding a complaint they’d received. It stated that the student in question wasn’t living inside the Fayetteville High territory. A strict reading of the TSSAA guidelines is that the TSSAA’s definition of territory includes both the geographic boundary and bus route. According to school officials, the student lives in Lincoln County. However, he doesn’t live inside the Fayetteville City limits, which is where the bus route exists for Fayetteville High School.

Days later the TSSAA informed the Tigers that they’d need to forfeit the six games the transfer student-athlete played in and pay a $600 fine. The forfeited games dropped the Tigers’ record from 10-0 overall, 5-0 district to 4-6 overall and 0-5 district – essentially forcing them to miss post season play.

Back and forth legal battle

It was a heartbreaking decision for the Tigers, who went 1-9 last year, and their first-year head coach, Kenny Morson. One that forced Fayetteville City Schools officials to do something unconventional. They appeared before a Circuit Court Judge M. Wyatt Burk asking for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the TSSAA. Judge Burk granted their request … temporarily putting the Tigers back in post season action.

Two days later, the TSSAA filed a motion to dismiss. That day, the judge encouraged both parties to work out the issue privately rather than pursue a lengthy and messy legal battle. Fayetteville City agreed on the condition that the TSSAA postpone publishing the Region 5 brackets until the matter was resolved. On Tuesday, the TSSAA denied Fayetteville City’s appeal … putting an end to the legal back and forth.

“I wish I could take one of the members back there with us to face my team,”Coach Morson told The Tennessean on November 5. “I’ve got no words for it.” (Click here for that article.) •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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