After three years and a lawsuit, records from TSSAA finally made public

The Nashville Scene finally received records sought three years ago from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association as part of an investigation into rule-breaking by an elite private school in Nashville.

When the TSSAA refused to turn over details about rule violations regarding tuition assistance for athletes at Montgomery Bell Academy, the now-defunct City Paper in Nashville sued and won. City Paper was owned by Southcomm Inc.; Southcomm also owns the Nashville Scene.

Steve Cavendish, now news editor for the Nashville Scene and former editor at the City Paper, wrote that  the TSSAA finally turned over the records in November after the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to take the TSSAA’s appeal of a lower court ruling.

In the story, Cavendish explains the effort to obtain the records from TSSAA, as well as what the records eventually revealed:

What those records show is a culture at the elite private school where TSSAA rules on assistance to athletes were largely ignored for decades; where prominent board members and coaching staff covered some or all of the tuition of some athletes; and where the administration had an apparent lack of institutional control.

At issue isn’t the kind of corruption that’s often alleged in big-money college athletics. Indeed, when patrons (including church congregations) overstepped the TSSAA’s stated bounds, it appears in most cases to have been for the best of intentions: to help students whose families had fallen on hard times or met with emergency needs. The issue lies more with the lack of transparency at the TSSAA itself — a body that governs almost all high school athletics in the state with little accountability or oversight. Its workings remain largely out of view.

And as these documents show, its rules apparently go unenforced — until someone throws a flag.

Read the full Nashville Scene story here: What a three-year public records fight revealed about the TSSAA’s financial aid rules and the school that broke them.

Previous TCOG blog post on the public records lawsuit against TSSAA: Behind the TSSAA: Preserving public oversight over government functions.

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