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Former Smoky Mountain assistant coach accused of offering playbook, signals to opponents

Franklin vs Smoky Mountain, 11-03-17
FILE PHOTO of Smoky Mountain High School football field. Photo: WLOS staff

A former Smoky Mountain High assistant football coach has resigned from his job as a teacher's assistant after being accused of offering the playbook and hand signals of the current Mustangs team to opposing schools.

Officials at Tuscola High and Cherokee High - opponents of Smoky Mountain in the first few weeks of the 2018 season - said Aaron Tuttle approached them, offering to give information that would help opponents defeat the team of school that employed him.

Smoky Mountain officials, citing personnel laws, declined to comment on the accusations against Tuttle, who was on the Mustangs' football staff last season, but is not on the staff this year under new coach Rickey Brindley.

Jackson County School Superintendent Kim Elliott said that Tuttle resigned Monday morning as a teacher's assistant at Smoky Mountain.

Elliott said she will take Tuttle's resignation to the Jackson County School Board at its Tuesday meeting, and recommend they accept it.

She also said a "personnel investigation" was underway, but would not confirm it involved Tuttle.

Brindley and Smoky Mountain Athletic Director Adam Phillips declined to comment and referred questions to Elliott.

Tuttle, a former student and football player at Smoky Mountain, had been employed as a teacher's assistant at the school since 1999, Elliott said. She said he also served as an assistant junior varsity baseball coach last season and had been on the football staff as an assistant in previous years.

Tuttle could not be reached for comment.

Austin Chambers, an assistant coach at Tuscola, said Tuttle approached him prior to a game on September 13.

"I thought he was there scouting because we had a game coming up against Smoky Mountain," said Chambers.

"When I asked if he was there to scout, he said, 'No, I don't work for Brindley. We don't see eye-to-eye on anything.'"

Chambers said Tuttle then offered to give him the Mustangs' playbook and hand signals.

"I was taken aback, really surprised, but I told him, 'No thanks, we think we can beat them fair and square.'"

"At first I thought he might be joking, but he said, 'Don't be ashamed to ask. I'll happily give it to you."

Chambers said Tuscola Assistant Principal Jacob Shelton was nearby and overheard the conversation.

Chambers said Shelton contacted Smoky Mountain Principal Evelyn Graning and told her about Tuttle, and Chambers said Shelton told him that Graning was appalled that a former coach would do that.

Shelton didn't return a phone call seeking comment. Graning declined to comment, referring all questions to Superintendent Kim Elliott.

Elliott, referring to the personnel investigation, said that when allegations are made, the school system investigates. When asked if a person outside the school made an allegation that initiated this particular investigation, Elliott said no.

First-year Tuscola coach JT Postell said he would never condone any of his assistants receiving information from another team in that manner.

"I was very surprised another coach would try to do that, and I have never heard of anyone doing something like that," said Postell. "That's not the way we do things and it never will be."

Smoky Mountain defeated Cherokee 28-12 this season, part of a 4-0 start under Brindley. Tuscola defeated the Mustangs 35-13 last week.

"It seemed kind of shady to me, to try and undercut another coach like that," Chambers said.

"(Tuttle) just sounded like sour grapes. He said his son was playing for Cherokee now instead of Smoky Mountain, and he seemed sour about that."

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