Pat Benson: Bradley And Cleveland Athletics Should Be Replicated In Hamilton

Saturday, February 23, 2019 - by Pat Benson
Pat Benson
Pat Benson

Bradley Central and Cleveland are no longer little brothers to Hamilton County Schools in sports, in fact they haven’t been for quite some time. I’m a product of the Hamilton County School System. My parents have taught in the school system for over 30 years, and my dad coached three sports for most of that time. I was a multi-year varsity letterman for Ooltewah High School basketball. But the truth of the matter is that Cleveland and Bradley County Schools have the right formula for sustained success in athletics, and Hamilton County Schools should replicate what has been working for our neighbors. Most specifically, Bradley Central and Cleveland. Walker Valley is always competitive and very respectable, but has not quite reached the same level of winning as its cohorts.

This is not an indictment of any one player, team, coach, athletic director, or school. Over the past few years, I’ve covered local sports and have had the pleasure of working with all the local actors in our community. Heck, I played sports with or against most of them and consider these folks to be family. The men and women who coach often get to school before the sun rises, leave long after the sun sets, and usually end up driving kids home after it all. When tragedy hits a kid’s family, ole coach is the first one to step up and help.

Nobody is questioning their dedication or sports acumen, but despite being such a sports-crazy city, we have been surpassed by our neighbors up 75-North.  The District 5-3A Basketball Tournament just wrapped up, and the Bradley Central girls cemented their 9th straight tournament title and have a district winning streak that would make Geno Auriemma’s eyes light up. On the boy’s side, either Bradley Central or Cleveland have won the regular season 10 out of the last 11 years.

The dominance extends beyond the hardwood, and on to the wrestling mat. Bradley Central and Cleveland have won a state championship 10 out of the last 11 seasons. Earlier this month Cleveland, Bradley Central, and Walker Valley all finished before any team from Hamilton County. It’s safe to assume that the Blue Raiders or Bears will only continue to add more hardware to their trophy room.

On the gridiron, Cleveland and Bradley Central were finally both placed in the same district as Ooltewah after redistricting two years ago. Since then, the Owls have been the only local team able to hold their own against our neighbors to the east. However, the facilities our kids have to use are not even comparable. Cleveland's field has state-of-the-art turf which is game-ready year-round. Ooltewah’s field is prone to flooding, and requires countless hours by their coaching staff and volunteers to make it playable. (A few weeks ago a proposal to make the press box at James N. Monroe Stadium safer was resoundingly panned).

In baseball it’s competitive between all the teams, and the only true advantage Hamilton County has in any of the major sports is Ooltewah softball. I don’t know the reason behind the overall disparity, but I would venture to guess that it begins at the lower levels and ends with how our sports are funded. Elementary and Middle School leagues are significantly longer and more serious compared to what we are offering through our school system.

Before the pious arguments like “school is for education, not sports” or “different sizes between school systems” begin, let me say that I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Further research is certainly needed to give a better explanation for the difference in how the athletics departments are funded. In fact, we should even look at school systems around the state to try to replicate best practices.

I say all this not because I’m a huge Hamilton County homer, but because our kids are getting robbed of modern facilities and perhaps even reaching their full athletic potential. Do the right thing and pay the teachers, pay the coaches, invest in extracurricular activities (most notably sports) and make our school system a model for the rest of the state.

--

Pat Benson is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has been a sideline reporter, P.A. announcer, and radio personality. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr.


PREP BASEBALL/SOFTBALL SCHEDULES

Mocs Blanked At Furman In Series Finale, 2-0

UTC Softball Sweeps Furman In Saturday Doubleheader To Start SoCon Play 2-0


(Changes, Corrections Or Additions: Please Notify Dennis Norwood at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com) PREP BASEBALL Monday, March 25 Cleveland at Walker Valley Tellico Plains at Sale Creek ... (click for more)

After compiling 23 runs on 35 hits over its last three games, the Chattanooga Mocs softball team recorded just three hits and was blanked in the run column during a 2-0 loss at Southern Conference-foe ... (click for more)

The Chattanooga Mocs softball team opened up Southern Conference play in dramatic fashion after earning a doubleheader sweep over Furman, 3-2 and 9-0, in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday afternoon. ... (click for more)


Sports

PREP BASEBALL/SOFTBALL SCHEDULES

(Changes, Corrections Or Additions: Please Notify Dennis Norwood at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com) PREP BASEBALL Monday, March 25 Cleveland at Walker Valley Tellico Plains at Sale Creek Cookeville at Rhea Co. Ooltewah at East Hamilton Notre Dame at Boyd-Buchanan McMinn Co. at Bradley Lookout Valley at CSAS Tyner at East Ridge Grace at Chattanooga Christian ... (click for more)

Mocs Blanked At Furman In Series Finale, 2-0

After compiling 23 runs on 35 hits over its last three games, the Chattanooga Mocs softball team recorded just three hits and was blanked in the run column during a 2-0 loss at Southern Conference-foe Furman in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday afternoon. Following the loss, Chattanooga falls to 23-8 overall and 2-1 in the SoCon . Furman improved its mark to 9-20, 1-2 in conference ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Man Found Dead In Bradley County Early Sunday Morning; Matthew Wolfcale, 25, Arrested

Matthew L. Wolfcale, 25, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in relation to a deadly shooting in Bradley County Sunday morning. He is in custody in the Bradley County Jail. At 4:08 a.m. deputies responded to reports of a gunshot at 3515 Bates Pike SE. Upon arrival, a male victim was found deceased. A search warrant has been secured and investigators are ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Blaze Involving 2 Houses On Dodson Avenue Late Saturday Night

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Saturday, Chattanooga firefighters responded to a report of a house fire on Dodson Avenue. Firefighters with Engine 5 were the first on the scene. Captain Joey Smith said two houses at 610 and 612 Dodson Ave. were engulfed in flames on the backside of the structures, and the flames were spreading quickly. Captain Smith said they took hand-held ... (click for more)

Opinion

Growth Can Continue At Ooltewah On Septic Tanks

I want to set the record straight about growth in North Hamilton County. On Feb. 21, 2019, County Mayor Coppinger called a “reset” meeting with the residents of Ooltewah/Harrison over the proposed sewer plant in North Hamilton County. In front of this community, I stood up and specifically asked the county mayor if growth could continue in Ooltewah and Harrison on septic tanks ... (click for more)

Our Roads Need To Be Repaired For Ironman - And Response

Chattanooga being a finalist for the 2021 Ironman is great news. The business gained at the local bicycle repair shops from bent rims, busted tires and warped frames should produce some great local revenue. The local physicians should see a surge as well from the twisted ankles and busted up knees from dips, humps and pot holes on our area roads that could swallow a small child. ... (click for more)