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Clinton HS Football must forfeit all wins for an ineligible player

Clinton HS Football must forfeit all wins for an ineligible player


Keith told WBIR he was unaware the student-athlete was ineligible to play until last week.

CLINTON, Tenn. Clinton High School football head coach Darell Keith will not coach the Dragons next season.

Keith told WBIR on Tuesday that the school has chosen not to renew his teaching contract and as a result he will not coach the team.

His departure follows action, including a fine, by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association against Clinton after it was found to have used an ineligible athlete in the 2023 football season.

In the May 17 letter, TSSAA wrote: “According to the information submitted, the student did not complete the required number of credits during the previous school year to be academically eligible.”

Clinton had self-reported on the player's use, according to the May 17 letter obtained by WBIR from TSSAA to the school's athletic director. The TSSAA told WBIR that Clinton herself reported the violation last week.

In addition to a $250 fine, the school faces the loss of six wins for games in which the ineligible player participated, according to the TSSAA. The letter they sent states that the player has participated in a total of 13 matches. The TSSAA has since emailed WBIR stating that Clinton is still in the process of determining the number of games the ineligible player has played.

Keith told WBIR he was unaware the student-athlete was ineligible to play until last week. He said the athletic department had to declare a player ineligible before the season, but he says he was never told that players were ineligible.

Keith said five players from last season were ineligible and he didn't play any of them.

Clinton High is also embroiled in a classroom scandal that has resulted in the departure of its principal and two teachers.

Rachel Jones, a teacher who was fired for setting test grades for students, said Keith came to her classroom in August 2022 and showed her a transcript showing grades for certain grades for a student, school board records show.

According to Jones, Keith told her to “replace the grades” by placing the student in Odysseyware classes. Jones said she couldn't help Keith and said Keith later came back with the same transcript.

The next time, he returned with a signature from former principal Dan Jenkins, school board minutes show.

“Dan said to put him in those classes,” Jones said, reporting what Keith said.

She said she asked Jenkins to confirm who told her to put him in the classes Keith had asked the student to be in.

Keith told WBIR that these are just allegations and that he has never tried to change a student-athlete's grade. He said all he did was try to get the student in question into credit recovery credits to improve his education.

He said it doesn't make sense that Jones said he asked for the grade to be replaced but also asked for the student-athlete to be placed in credit recovery courses.

Keith told WBIR that he is seeking legal advice because he feels his name is being defamed.

Keith has been coaching at the school since he was hired in December 2019. He went 19-23 in four seasons before forfeiting last season.

He led the team to their first playoff appearance since last year's 2018 season. In his final season, he led Clinton to playoff victories over McMinn County and Oak Ridge before losing to Walker Valley.

Keith's coaching career includes a stint at Todd County Central in Kentucky, his previous school before coming to Clinton.




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