Trezevant Football Grading Scandal Mars School Turnaround

By Bill Dries

At the last Shelby County Schools board meeting of 2015, the Trezevant High School football team stood before the board as state champions in their football division – the first football championship in the history of the Frayser school.

The Trezevant High School football team has forfeited all of its football games so far this season in a grade changing investigation that surfaced Thursday at the Frayser school.

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“I would ask you to please support the children. Not me, not my efforts,” coach Telis White told the board. “It’s about the children. I thank the kids. The children are what makes this thing go. … I don’t think they realize the significance of winning the state championship. That means they are No. 1 in the state. … I try to stay on them about their character.”

Less than a year later, the Trezevant Bears have forfeited all of the games they’ve played so far this season and future games until an internal school system investigation is completed into a scandal in which the grades of some football players were changed in their transcripts.

A statement Thursday, Sept. 29, from SCS cited “grade discrepancies” and the “severity of this issue” for the actions taken so far.

“We understand the impact this has on our students, but it’s necessary as we fully understand the seriousness of the situation,” reads the statement.

The statement expresses “the utmost confidence” in Trezevant principal Ronnie Mackin and makes no mention of White.

“Students’ futures are in our hands and we will not tolerate any reckless handling of student records,” the statement added. “Anyone found to be directly responsible for or to have assisted in any way of creating the grade discrepancies will face the strictest possible consequences.”

SCS learned of the changed grades when Mackin and his staff were conducting an academic audit to confirm that students are taking the proper courses to graduate.

Mackin immediately notified the school system and the violations were reported to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which oversee high school athletic programs statewide.

SCS leaders say they have no reason to believe the problem goes beyond Trezevant. But the district plans to reach out to all schools and remind them of auditing procedures.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s only comment beyond the written statement came in a Tweet Thursday evening: “I am very disappointed that our students have to suffer the consequences of the actions of a handful of selfish adults.”

Trezevant’s 2015 state championship was vindication of a sort for another football scandal 15 years ago before any of the current players or White were at the school.

Trezevant was at the center of a recruiting scandal that prompted a federal investigation, criminal charges, a two-year bowl ban and five years probation for the University of Alabama.

Trezevant defensive tackle Albert Means was a nationally recruited lineman in 1999 who signed with the University of Alabama.

Trezevant assistant coach Milton Kirk publicly accused Trezevant head coach Lynn Lang of shopping Means to colleges for $200,000.

Alabama booster Logan Young was convicted in Memphis federal court of paying Lang $150,000. The trial included testimony from Kirk and others that alleged Lang had solicited money from eight schools including Alabama. Alabama got a two-year bowl ban and five years probation from the NCAA.

Means testified that Lang had someone else take his ACT test for him at Trezevant.

Last year’s state championship came in the second school year that Trezevant was in the school system’s Innovation Zone. The I-Zone is a set of 21 schools that are among the lowest performing in the state, but which the school system has overhauled with new principals, changes on the faculty, a longer school day, teaching assistants and quicker and deeper academic intervention.

Just before those changes, the school’s football boosters and others pushing for improvements at Trezevant were also making the case for a turnaround of the school’s football program. In particular, they wanted city leaders and school system leaders to find a way to give Trezevant its own football stadium or at least an upgrade of Greenhill Stadium, the traditional home of high school football in Frayser.