The TSSAA was organized in 1925 by school principals and superintendents who saw the need for fair and equitable rules whereby bonafide students were the participants and officiating was done by qualified people of character. Although they felt that athletics and team competition contributed positively to the educational objectives of their schools, these leaders realized that cooperation among school administrators was necessary to ensure that schools' academic mission would not be compromised in the pursuit of athletic glory.
About thirty high school principals and superintendents, meeting in Nashville for the annual Tennessee State Teachers' Association conference, adopted a constitution and bylaws organizing the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on Saturday, April 11, 1925. This effort was initiated by G. C. Carney, principal of Nashville Central High School, and A. J. Smith, superintendent of the Clarksville School System. Carney was elected president and Smith secretary-treasurer. Three vice presidents, one from each grand division of the state, were also elected. They were James Lovell of Bradley Central High School, Cleveland; Frank A. Faulkinberry of Franklin County High School, Decherd; and B. L. Hassell, Peabody High School, Trenton. Stacy E. Nelson, Central High School, Chattanooga, and W. A. Bass, state high school supervisor of Nashville, were also elected to the TSSAA's Board of Control.
Twenty-four schools initially filed application for admission to the newly formed association. Membership nearly doubled over the ensuing months, with 45 schools having joined by the end of the association's first year. Each school was accepted for membership by the Board of Control with annual dues of $5.00.
The purpose of the statewide group was to stimulate and regulate athletic relations in the state's secondary schools, both public and private. The group knew many members of athletic teams at many schools were not bonafide students; and in many cases the eligibility rules were just what coaches, principals and fans were willing to impose upon themselves.
Asterisk denotes current TSSAA member school.
*Ashland City (Cheatham Co.)
Baxter Seminary (Putnam Co.)
*Carthage (Smith Co.)
Cedar Hill (Robertson Co.)
*Cornersville (Marshall Co.)
Cross Plains (Robertson Co.)
Franklin County (Decherd)
*Eagleville (Rutherford Co.)
*Erin (Houston Co.)
Gladesville Academy (Wilson Co.)
Goodlettsville (Davidson Co.)
*Greenfield (Weakley Co.)
*Hampshire (Maury Co.)
*Trousdale County (Hartsville)
*Lawrence County (Lawrenceburg)
*Lewisburg (Marshall Co.)
Liberty (DeKalb Co.)
*McKenzie (Carroll Co.)
Memphis South Side
Nashville Peabody Demonstration
*Oneida (Scott Co.)
Orlinda (Robertson Co.)
Shop Springs Academy (Wilson Co.)
Pure Fountain College (Smithville)
*White County (Sparta)
Wartrace (Bedford Co.)
Wheat (Roane Co.)
The TSSAA handbook outlines the script and purpose of the Association. It contains the minimum standards of eligibility to be met by high school students attaining the privilege of participating in interschool contests, and these rules control the participating schools. Any public, parochial, or private junior or senior high school accredited by the Tennessee State Department of Education, State Department of Education approved agencies, and/or the Southern Association of Secondary Schools, Colleges, and Universities may become a member by subscribing to TSSAA standards and paying the membership dues.
The Board of Control is the executive authority of the TSSAA. It enforces regulations, conducts state meetings, authorizes expenditures and registers officials. Legislative authority over the Constitution and Bylaws is vested in the Legislative Council. Proposed rule changes are discussed by schools at three regional meetings in the fall (East, Middle, West) and the Council ascertains the sentiment of the membership towards such changes. The semi-annual meetings of the Council are held in December and March with the purpose of accepting or rejecting proposed rule changes.
TSSAA is a nonprofit organization and is not tax-supported. Nearly 80% of the support for TSSAA's programs and operations comes from gate receipts from postseason tournaments and the contributions of corporate sponsors.
Leadership of Mr. Bridges
Many individuals have played an important and influential role in the development of the TSSAA, However, one man probably stood out as being the "Father of the TSSAA." That one man was A. F. Bridges.
Mr. Bridges began his official association with the TSSAA in 1940. Mr. Bridges, while serving as Superintendent of Schools in Trenton, was appointed to serve on the TSSAA Board of Control. In 1946, Mr. Bridges was selected as the first full-time Executive Secretary of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. One of Mr. Bridges's duties was to renew a publication to all association members and schools.
Mr. Bridges became known for his courage and fairness. His strict interpretation and enforcement of the rules and regulations of the TSSAA became apparent many times when called upon to discipline schools, teams, and players for infractions of established policies, rules, and regulations. Mr. Bridges served as the Executive Secretary until June, 1972.
"TSSAA, like all organizations, has its weaknesses. So long as the rules that govern the high school athletic programs can be made by the school administrators and coaches who are in daily contact with the problems growing out of athletic competition, such weaknesses can be found and eliminated and the program can continue to contribute to the development of the youth in our secondary schools. If the management of our athletic activities is ever taken out of the hands of the school people and placed in the hands of those who do not have first-hand knowledge of the difficult problems that are involved and who are subject to political pressures, it will be a sad day for the schools of Tennessee." -- A. F. Bridges, 1970