Unaka basketball team banned from tournament after football forfeit to Greenback

UNAKA, Tenn. (WJHL) – Other sports teams at Unaka High School are feeling the ramifications of the football team’s decision to forfeit the playoff game on Friday.

Unaka administrators sent a letter to the TSSAA, informing them most players on the team turned in their uniforms after last Friday’s game and signed a statement saying they were not going to play the playoff game this week.

Steve McKinney has been the head football coach at Unaka High School for eight years.

“They decided they didn’t want to play no more so they turned their stuff in,” McKinney said.

After a 1-9 season, and a 71-0 loss last week to Midway, most of the team members decided traveling to the playoffs wouldn’t be worth it.

“I’ve got eight kids left,” McKinney said. “It’d be hard for me to go down and play with eight kids against Greenback who’s a very solid football team.”

Matthew Gillespie with the TSSAA says the school issued the letter to them on Monday forfeiting their playoff game against Greenback High School on Friday.

“It’s very rare,” said Gillespie. “Certainly in the post season and certainly in a sport like football or basketball. In fact, in my 18 years at the office I’ve never seen a school forfeit a football playoff game.”

Coach McKinney says he has mixed feelings about the team’s decision.

“It’s hard on a coaching staff, it’s hard on the school. But also, I can understand that they didn’t want to drive 3 and a half hours knowing maybe Greenback would’ve scored 100 or 200 points,” he said.

Tuesday afternoon, the TSSAA returned a letter to the school, saying: “The Unaka High School boys basketball program will not be allowed to participate in the basketball post-season tournament series during the 2016-2017 school year due to the action taken not to participate in the football playoffs after being placed in the bracket.”

Unaka is in a 5-team conference and according to TSSAA rules, if a team in that conference wins one game, it advances to the playoffs.

“Everybody knows that a 1 and 9 team doesn’t need to be in the playoffs,” Coach McKinney said.

Because Unaka forfeited the game, that means Greenback will have a bye-week and automatically advance to the next round in the playoffs.

Kevin Ward, Director of Schools, says the TSSAA board will have a meeting on November 17, where the school plans to appeal the action to penalize the basketball team.