grace christian academy

Franklin’s Grace Christian Academy won a big victory with the TSSAA on Thursday. The state’s governing body is permitting the school to go Division II in all sports for the 2019-20 school year.

GCA athletic director Len McKnatt appeared before the TSSAA’s Board of Control on Thursday. The board unexpectedly announced its decision on the spot.

It wasn’t exactly the outcome that McKnatt wanted. GCA had requested a move to all sports except for football for the 2018-19 school year. It hoped to transition to Division II in that sport for 2019-20.

The TSSAA granted the request for football, but made the others also wait an additional year.

Still, McKnatt was pleased, even if the timeline was later than he’d hoped.

“We’re excited about going Division II,” GCA athletic director Len McKnatt said on Thursday. “There are a lot of schools that have similar missions to us, and it’s going to be exciting,”

Grace Christian currently competes in Class A of Division I, which is mostly composed mostly of public schools across the state. However, Division II contains only private schools.

It fields boys’ teams in football, baseball, girls squads in softball and volleyball, and teams for each in basketball, cross country, tennis, golf, soccer and track and field.

Reasons for the move

Grace Christian submitted a letter to the board that included six reasons for the request. One of the primary reasons was the difficulties that GCA had in getting teams within its district (the Lions are in Region 5, District 10) for soccer games.

The current situation aversely affects the Lions’ soccer teams when it comes to postseason seeding.

“In the bylaws, you don’t have to play a team in your district if you don’t want to, and it doesn’t count as a forfeit in a sport where everyone makes the tournament,” McKnatt said. “For example, in soccer, everybody makes the district tournament. The teams in our district, with the exception of Columbia Academy, chose not to play us and Columbia Academy next year in boys and girls soccer and doesn’t count as a forfeit.

“We will play Columbia Academy and the winner of that is next to last, and the loser, they’re seeding last, for the district tournament. And they’re being allowed to do that by a vote from the schools in the district.”

Grace Christian, in its petition to the TSSAA, cited other reasons as to how it is adversely affected by being in Division I. Those included:

“(GCA has) lost several part-time employees in order to abide by the part-time employee rule in Division 1.”

“Several (Grace Christian) student athletes have been unable to compete due to the new work-study rule in Division I.”

“(GCA has) been placed in a District in baseball where we have no District opponents.”

Grace Christian made the TSSAA Division I Class A playoffs for the first time in school history. It drubbed Wayne County in a 64-24 road victory before falling 52-15 to Cornersville the next week.

McKnatt doubles as the GCA boys’ basketball coach. He previously spent 19 years at Battle Ground Academy, where he led the Wildcats to the 2013-14 state title.