Should elite private school escape sanction by dismissing coach?

Cameron Smith

Nashville's Montgomery Bell (Tenn.) Academy is one of its state's most well-known schools. The highly regarded private institution has both an impressive academic reputation and legacy of competitive teams in a variety of sports, including some well-earned football platitudes.

Montgomery Bell Academy football coach Daniel McGugin

However, some of the luster of the MBA football program's recent accomplishments were brought under scrutiny in recent days, after the Nashville Tennessean discovered that the school had self-reported itself for failing to follow established guidelines for handing out financial aid.

While the series of articles the Tennessean has produced about the possible MBA violations has failed to specify precisely what the violation was, the school felt it was significant enough to preemptively dismiss four-year head coach Daniel McGugin, whose 41-10 record at the prestigious school included a 13-0 perfect season that finished with a state title.

The goal for dismissing McGugin -- who still contested on Monday that he had not been released, contrary to the MBA headmaster's assertions -- was clearly to help the school avoid sanction from the Tennessee High School Athletic Association. While it's premature to say MBA will definitely accomplish that goal, it appears that the school is on track to pull of just that feat.

According to the Tennessean, THSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said that he felt that the school's self-reporting of the incident would likely be sufficient to avoid further sanction.

"If they have asked their coach to step down … they've addressed it and addressed it in a way that shows they take it very seriously," Childress told the Tennessean. "There's nothing else for us to do.

"We're not into penalizing someone just because we can. That's not how we operate."

The THSAA may not be ready to penalize them following the school's self-disclosure, but that doesn't mean MBA escaping sanction is the correct -- or more equitable -- solution to the ongoing financial aid dilemma. As a private school, MBA holds a distinct advantage of public schools in its ability to mold its own team via self-selection of students. Is the simple and admittedly honest act of coming clean about a mistake enough to justify avoiding penalties for that mistake itself?

For now, it appears THSAA feels that action is justified, though that could change quickly if additional problems are unearthed, according to Childress.

"If it's not self-reported -- if it's something we find and feel like they were trying to hide -- we can go back 25 years," he said.

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