MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — A pair of Tennessee girls basketball high school teams have been pulled from the postseason for trying to lose a game to avoid the top-ranked team and improve their chances of advancing to the state tournament.
The programs at Riverdale, a state champion in 2013, and Smyrna were fined a total of $1,500 each Monday and also placed on probation for a year by the Tennessee Secondary School athletic Association.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress wrote Monday in letters to the schools’ principals that the teams “made a mockery” with intentional turnovers off various violations and missed free throws. The referee also reported he stopped play ordering the coaches not to make a travesty of the game with a Smyrna player about to shoot at the wrong basket.
“Now I think Riverdale was the first team to start, ‘let’s lose the game,’ but both teams obviously didn’t want to win and it really showed,” the referee wrote in his game report that was included in Childress’ letters.
Childress said high school athletic programs are meant to teach students ethics, integrity, sportsmanship, morals and values.
“This situation defeated the purpose of educational-based athletics,” Childress wrote.
Smyrna (21-8) won the game 55-29 Saturday against Riverdale (22-8), a program that won its third state title in four years in March 2013 with a 58th straight win. The winner was on track to play Tennessee’s defending Class AAA champion Blackman (25-2).
TSSAA officials met with administrators from both schools, and Childress noted both apologized for their teams and acknowledged the game was “not in the spirit of fair play.”
Riverdale principal Tom Nolan took to Twitter to apologize for what he called “unsportsmanlike conduct and disrespect for the game.”
Smyrna principal Rick Powell told The Daily News Journal, which first reported the punishments, both he and Nolan asked the TSSAA to allow the teams to keep playing without their coaches this postseason.
“I hate it for the kids because of the actions of the coaches,” Powell said. “We pleaded with the TSSAA. We hated that they were penalized. But that was their decision.”