The Mt. Juliet High School football program has been placed on probation and sanctioned by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association for recruiting violations that occurred earlier this year.
According to a letter from the TSSAA, which governs high school sports, to then Mt. Juliet High School Principal Leigh Ann Rainey, violations by coaches included inviting non-MJHS students to participate in “virtual” workouts and position meetings.
In addition, the Wilson County Schools leadership became “aware of targeted attempts by the MJHS Football coaching staff to retain current members of their team in spite of the district’s rezoning plan,” according to the letter, which is itself quoting the results of the WCS investigation. “Emails and interviews confirm that parents were invited to a meeting where the coaching staff directed them to apply for zone exemptions and the content they should include in their requests.”
That put the students’ eligibility to play football at risk.
“The violations that have occurred could implicate the eligibility at Mt. Juliet High School of the student-athletes involved,” the TSSAA wrote. “However, in an effort to err on the side of allowing these student-athletes to participate, we will assume based on the information from the administration that these student-athletes likely would have attended Mt. Juliet High School notwithstanding the events described above.”
WCS spokesman Barton Barker issued the following statement Tuesday: “Wilson County Schools worked in partnership with the TSSAA to resolve an unfortunate situation involving the Mt. Juliet High School football program. Our district and the MJHS administration hold all of our programs to the highest of standards. Wilson County Schools and Mt. Juliet High School’s football program have learned valuable lessons through virtual participation processes and look forward to continuous improvement as we move forward to the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, schools and community.”
The coaching staff used a messaging app to target 50 students for virtual workouts between March 22 and April 22, the investigation revealed. Of those, 35 attend four district middle schools, 14 are students at Wilson Central High School, and one attends Barry Tatum Academy.
“MJHS administration confirmed that invitations were sent to students who they (coaches) believe were slated to transfer to MJHS in the fall,” the WCS investigation found.
The football program’s punishment includes being placed on probation from May 1, 2020 to May 1, 2022 and fined $1,000.
During the first year of probation, the program is limited to two fall scrimmages, no jamboree, no conditioning, weightlifting or practice during the first week of summer practice; no 7-on-7 scrimmages, spring practice is reduced from 12 days in a 15-day period to seven days in a 10-day period; no spring scrimmage; and no in-person meetings with middle school students.
During the second year of probation, fall scrimmages are reduced to three, no spring scrimmage and no in-person meetings with middle school students.
The TSSAA letter includes the following statement: “TSSAA acknowledges that the Wilson County School District and Mt. Juliet High School administration plans to work with the Human Resources Department to take further actions with the specific coaches and employees that orchestrated the violations.”
Barker said Wednesday in an email that “no further disciplinary actions would be taken.”