Knoxville Catholic and Grace Christian Academy in Franklin are both headed to Division II. The TSSAA’s Board of Control unanimously approved both private schools’ requests to go to Division II starting in the 2019-20 school year. GCA, which is in its third year as a TSSAA member, was denied its request to go to DII in 2018-19 in all sports but football where it would fulfill the second of two-year contracts as a Division I member. “It would have been unprecedented, too, by the TSSAA,” said Catholic athletic director Jason Surlas of the possibility of Catholic football remaining one more year in DI to fulfill game contracts while other sports went to Division II. No football player would be allowed need-based aid had that occurred.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress confirmed that has never been allowed and that a school must declare if it will be in Division I or in Division II. “We knew this was how it was going to probably end up,” GCA principal Robbie Mason said. “Ultimately, it is a good decision for us.” Catholic principal Dickie Sompayrac acknowledged the program hasn’t been embraced by other public school programs competing against the Irish. “We knew when we stayed in Division I it would not be a popular thing,” he said.
GCA asked to move to Division II now after several schools in their district have told coaches they won’t play them. AD Len McKnatt said he’s received information that all members of District 10-A girls soccer except Columbia Academy have told the school they will not play GCA next season. That league includes public schools Culleoka, East Hickman, Hickman County and Richland. “You could use the word frustrating; I would say disappointed,” Mason said. “We want to give our kids an equal opportunity to compete. At the end of the day, that’s what we wanted.” Childress said the Board of Control could make the teams compete against GCA, but it’s been a “longstanding agreement not to require anyone to play teams in the district in the regular season. They can play whoever they want except in football.”
Catholic, though, is the headliner in regard to those moving to Division II in 2019. During the 2017 calendar year, the Irish won state team titles in football (Class 5A), girls tennis (A/AA) and boys track and field (A/AA) and were runner-up in boys basketball (AA) volleyball (AA) and boys cross country (Large Class). “I think we are making a lot of people happy,” Sompayrac said. “The fact that we do feel like this is eminent. “We don’t want to be somewhere where we aren’t wanted. We’ve heard that loud and clear. It is what it is.”
Reach Tom Kreager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.
Published by The Tennessean