Fayetteville football team loses appeal, will not compete in playoffs

Updated: Nov. 5, 2019 at 2:46 PM CST
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FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (WAFF) - The Fayetteville High School football team, which finished the season with a perfect 10-0 record, will not be allowed to compete in the state playoffs.

The team lost its appeal on Tuesday to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association regarding the eligibility of one of the team’s players.

Fayetteville High School principal Adam McCormick joined head football coach Kenny Morson in presenting the team’s case for reversing the TSSAA’s decision. The hearing centered around the eligibility of an unnamed Fayetteville high school football player. The player in question, according to Coach Morson, was declared in the TSSAA’s player transfer portal ahead of the 2019 season.

The TSSAA reached out to the school in early September requesting documentation to prove the student lived within the Fayetteville school district. The school complied with the request, and received a letter from the TSSAA stating the player was in good standing.

Morson addressed the TSSAA’s decision after Tuesday’s hearing.

“We’ve been an open book through the process, and that was our intent to show them today," said Morson. The head coach told the TSSAA his team never had any intention to deceive officials, and said he believed the school was following proper zoning policies for its students.

The TSSAA cited a bylaw in its argument stating student zoning is tied to geographic boundaries and bus routes. Representatives with the Fayetteville school system say zoning for the high school extends past the city. However, since bus routes do not extend to the student’s address, the TSSAA ruled the player lives outside of the district.

The TSSAA informed the team in October the student was ineligible and games against Marion County, Huntland, Mt. Pleasant, Moore County, Richland and Cornersville had to be forfeited. It is not clear what prompted the TSSAA’s reversal from its September letter to the Fayetteville high school principal.

The TSSAA Board of Control reaffirmed its decision on Tuesday by a 7-2 vote. The decision reduces Fayetteville’s record to 4-6 and leaves the Tigers on the outside of the playoffs.

The Tigers were hoping to cap off a historic season with a state title. The team had dedicated its play to teammate Tate Tuten, who died in a car crash in early October.

“To have to drive back and face these young men...and tell them their season is over and their fight to 15-0 and win this state championship for their teammate Tate… it’s going to be very hard,” said Morson. “No class or coaching clinic could ever prepare me for to face a team under the adversity of a loss of a player and then the loss of a season.”

The school was granted a temporary restraining order by a Lincoln County judge from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s ruling that would have cost the Tigers six wins. The court later ruled the final decision would be determined at an appeal hearing between the school and the TSSAA on Tuesday.

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