Tennessee will crown six high school Division I football champions for another four years, despite a recommendation to the contrary from the state association staff.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Board of Control voted 5-4 Monday to continue to play in three regular-season classes, with each of those classes split for the postseason.
Jerry Mathis of Tullahoma made the motion to remain in six playoff classes, and Fred Kessler of Bolivar seconded the motion. Chuck West of Dresden, Ike White of Westwood and Tommy Layne of Sequatchie County also voted in favor.
"We discussed it and kicked it around a lot and looked at all the options," Mathis said. "You can't just look at your school. You have to look at how it affects all the people in your area. In my case, for my district, I never had one school say they wanted to go back to five classes."
The vote will extend a system, which was put in place for the 2009 season, through at least 2016.
The six-classification system for football playoffs reduces travel for many schools. The five-classification format, used from 1993-2008, offered a clearer playoff formula with the top four teams in each region qualifying.
A statewide survey conducted last fall by The Tennessean indicated that 60 percent of Division I's 302 football coaches favored a five-class format.
A TSSAA survey of Division I administrators conducted earlier this year showed 49.8 percent of 221 respondents supporting the current system with 48 percent favoring a return to five classes.
Bryan True of Lewis County, Steve Chauncy of Hillwood, Jody Wright of Fulton and board president Mike Reed of Morristown West voted against the motion.
"Of the principals in my area, 64 percent wanted to go back to five classes," Reed said. "It puts the schools a little closer together in enrollment, and they prefer to travel a little more to play schools closer in enrollment."
Bernard Childress, executive director of the TSSAA, recommended a return to five classes -- knowing that would cost the state association approximately $100,000 per year and eliminate 16 teams from the postseason.
"We had played 16 years with a system we know works," Childress said following the meeting. "We've had three years with a system that has been tweaked every year, that no one understands. Football is unique in that everybody doesn't make (the playoffs). If you don't have the opportunity, you need to know how to get there.
"We knew the vote would be close -- 5-4, 6-3. Which way? I wouldn't have been surprised either way."
Childress said he didn't think the recommendation had an impact on the vote.
"I think they had their minds made up when they came in," he said. "It's not the first time they've not taken the staff's recommendation. But they head this organization, and we're going to do what they ask us to do."