Wilkins Stadium

The stands at Wilkins Stadium remain empty. With the TSSAA proposing options for a possible condensed football season, it could raise serious financial concerns in the immediate future. 

While questions surround the start of fall sports at the high school, Tullahoma has its own set of questions, namely being – will sports even be financially possible under the new proposal by the TSSAA?

On Monday, Governor Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s COVID-19 State of Emergency until Aug. 29. That measure included limitations and restrictions on contact sporting events and activities.

In a memo sent to all schools on Tuesday, the TSSAA stated that under the extended order, high school girls’ soccer and football teams will be forced to move back the start of their seasons. Golf, volleyball and cross-country seasons are still expected to start on time.

At a Board of Control meeting Wednesday, the TSSAA proposed options for a condensed football season. For Tullahoma – and many other schools around the state – that could prove to be a financial problem.

Under the new proposed options, Tullahoma would lose at least one home game – and possibly a second – which would ultimately lead to less revenue. On top of that, attendance regulations may come into play and significantly hurt the athletic budget this fall.

According to John Olive, THS Athletic Director and Head Football Coach, at most high school in the state, football and basketball drive the revenues. That is no different in Tullahoma’s case, and if the home schedule is altered, Olive is worried about the immediate future for THS sports.

“Now you’re putting sports in front of others who may or may not be able to pay for themselves,” he said. “For instance, golf will not be able to pay for itself. It has no opportunity to generate revenue. Yet, the sports that you’re counting on to pay for those revenues may or may not take place.”

Under one of the proposals from the TSSAA, teams would play a seven-game schedule. Tullahoma would be forced to play its five Region 4-4A contests and then be able to add two more games.

Under the original schedule, Tullahoma had two region home games on the books and then had three additional non-region home games slated – including Shelbyville and Coffee County. Under that seven-game proposal, Tullahoma would more than likely only get one additional home game after facing its region opponents, which left Olive with a myriad of questions.

“If you take away those first two games, which are at home, what sports do you want us to drop that we can no longer fund? Who is in charge of picking those sports that we are going to do away with this year? Who is going tell those parents and those athletes that ‘Sorry there isn’t any money for you all’? There may not even be enough to pay for a football season at that point because of the two games that we would be missing.”

In Wednesday’s discussions, Mark Reeves, TSSAA Assistant Executive Director, noted that the organization has asked the Governor’s Task Force for an exemption. That would put high schools in the same category with in-state college and professional teams.

If the TSSAA is included in that order, sports would be exempt from the executive order, which would allow games to be played as originally scheduled. Those discussions with the governor’s task force are slated to take place next week.

Without a decision from the Governor’s Task Force, the TSSAA presented its contingency plan, which is the Board of Control is slated to vote during a meeting next Wednesday, July 8. In this past Wednesday’s meeting, the board members voted unanimously to mandate that member schools follow the Governor’s executive order for sports activities.

Once the TSSAA votes on Wednesday on its proposal for the 2020 football season, city school administrations will need to have discussions regarding the future of fall sports.

“The problem is, we’ve got these programs that are freed up, but we’ve got to make a decision and ask, ‘Do we run the risk and pay for those sports to operate?’ That’s what all the schools are trying to decide,” Olive said. “I guarantee every school in the state is trying to decide ‘do we keep these going knowing that only one of those three has any chance at bringing in any revenue’?”

While the Tullahoma City Schools Administration will need to make a decision about athletics, Olive said there was no timetable. He expects to meet with Tullahoma Director of City Schools Catherine Stephens and THS Principal Jason Quick once the TSSAA has rendered a decision.

“I think [a timetable] is very fluid,” Olive said. “I think we are going to keep proceeding like normal. At some point in time, Dr. Stephens, Mr. Quick, myself and some possibly other stakeholders will be sitting down and trying to decide just exactly what we want to try to do athletically.”

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