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TSSAA reopens door for football starting on time, presents contingency plans

Douglas Fritz • Jul 1, 2020 at 6:45 PM

While the TSSAA presented four options to member schools Wednesday as contingency plans, it also held out hope football season could still begin on time.

The organization that governs high school athletics in Tennessee said Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to prohibit contact sports through Aug. 29 could be modified so that high schools move into the same category as college and professional teams. Such a decision could allow football teams to begin full practice on the regularly scheduled date of July 27.

Assistant Executive Director Mark Reeves said the TSSAA asked the governor’s office if it would be open to making the TSSAA exempt from Executive Order No. 50, which prohibits contact sports through Aug. 29.

“They said they would consider it,” Reeves said.

If that doesn’t occur, TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said his organization would consider four contingency plans. Three of them would provide a path to crown football state champions.

Moving sports like baseball and softball to the fall was not one of the options presented despite getting a noticeable amount of support from football coaches across the state.

The board adjourned without selecting one of the following options. It will reconvene July 8, presumably to choose one of the proposals.

THE OPTIONS

No. 1: A seven-game regular season would begin on Sept. 18. The full playoffs would begin as scheduled on Nov. 6. The TSSAA would set schedules for all schools, and teams missing the playoffs could schedule two additional games.

No. 2: An eight-game regular season would begin Sept. 18 with a 16-team playoff bracket in each classification. The TSSAA would set the schedules for all schools. Region champions and region runners-up would qualify for the postseason, which would begin on Nov. 13.

No. 3: A nine-game regular season would be followed by an eight-team postseason bracket in each of the six public-school classes. Only the region champions would qualify for the playoffs. The first two weeks of the regular season would be lost, and weeks 3 and 4 would move to Nov. 6 and Nov. 13. The playoffs would begin Nov. 20.

No. 4: There would be no playoffs. Teams would play the entirety of their regular season schedules.

“I don’t think anyone wants that option,” Childress said.

EXEMPTION AND TESTING

Childress said he believes the TSSAA should be exempt from the governor’s ruling.

“We can't do what NCAA and pro teams are doing in terms of testing,” he said. “Financially, our schools can't afford that. It's $100 per test. But competition and other things, we feel we can do it just as good as they can.”

Childress acknowledged testing is a very important part of the process in terms of keeping student-athletes safe.

“We totally understand why the governor included high school sports in his executive order,” Childress said. “Testing is the key. The point I was trying to make is we have the capability to conduct competitions on game day the same way (college and pro teams) plan to do. We have some of the same medical professionals guiding our decision-making process.”

WHAT ABOUT COVID INTERRUPTIONS?

Childress said the TSSAA would prepare regulations for football teams that are forced to miss any games because of a COVID outbreak.

“It is something we have a huge concern about and would have to make decisions in preparing regulations,” Childress said. “We would have to include something that states what would happen.”

One possibility is a team would have to forfeit the contest.

OTHER SPORTS

The TSSAA reiterated that cross country, golf and volleyball can move forward with their normal schedules.

For girls soccer, Childress recommended extending the season a few weeks and playing the state championships at a later date. The would allow teams to participate in a full season.

One board member expressed concern that a later state tournament could interfere with club soccer, creating a potential conflict.

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