A day after announcing that high school football teams across the state will see their seasons delayed, the TSSAA proposed three options for the upcoming 2020 season in a meeting on Wednesday.
In a memo sent to all schools on Tuesday by TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress stated that girls’ soccer and football will move back the start of their seasons. Girls’ soccer was slated to start on Aug. 14, while football was scheduled to get underway on Aug. 20.
The move comes after 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. Volleyball, cross-country and golf seasons are still expected to start as originally scheduled.
In Tuesday’s memo, Childress stated that teams are limited to weightlifting, conditioning and fundamentals with no contact for football, soccer, girls’ soccer, wrestling, basketball and competitive cheer. Football will not be permitted to participate in 7-on-7 games.
For soccer players, the TSSAA is exploring postponing the state championships to allow additional weeks for the regular season. Practices would be allowed to begin on Aug. 30, with potential to extend the originally scheduled season.
The majority of Wednesday’s TSSAA meeting was solely focused on unveiling the options for football season moving forward. In the current state emergency, full-contact practices will not be able to begin until Aug. 30, with regular season games expected to start on Sept. 18.
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 things to be played as originally scheduled. Those discussions with the governor’s office 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.
The first option considered includes a seven-game regular-season schedule for each with the normal 32-team playoff bracket for teams in Division I. In that proposed scenario, the playoffs would start as scheduled and the TSSAA would be in charge of setting each team’s schedule.
“We would schedule the region games and let them [the teams] fill in from there,” Childress said in a media press conference on Wednesday.
The teams who do not make the playoffs will be allowed to play two additional games, making for a total of a nine-game season.
The second proposed option includes an eight-game regular-season schedule, which would feature a 16-team playoff bracket in Division I. In that scenario, only the region champion and runner-up would make it into the playoff. The TSSAA would once again set the schedule for each team and squads who did not make the playoffs would be able to schedule two additional contests.
The third option allows high schools to compete in a nine-game season. In this case, only region champions advance to the playoffs, making for an eight-team playoff bracket.
Childress also presented a fourth option, however, he pointed out that the support for this consideration was lacking. The final option, included a regular 10-game season beginning on Sept. 18. In that scenario, there would be no playoffs and the teams would conclude the year after their tenth game.
“I’m for the most regular season games that can get in and a three-round playoff from an athletic director standpoint,” said John Olive, THS Athletic Director and Head Football Coach. “From a coach’s standpoint, I’d like to get the top two teams get in. From an athletic director standpoint, we still need those games. It’s still going to be a major financial hit. We’ll wait and see what decision that they make on Wednesday.”
Tullahoma and other teams across the state are slated to return from the two-week dead period Monday. Before the TSSAA enforced break, the Wildcats were able to work out with certain protocols, which will continue moving forward.
Upon arrival, every player and coach is required to meet at the concession stand located at the top of the Rudy Hensel Track. From there, players and coaches will have their temperature taken. Anybody with a temperature above 100.4 Fahrenheit degrees will be sent home. Any athlete who has a high temperature or feels sick is encouraged to stay at home.
Locker rooms are closed, so athletes must bring athletic shoes, cleats and workout gear with them. All players are also required to bring their own water bottles with their names written on them.
Workouts will consist of seven different groups, each working in 90 minute intervals. Each group consists of 10 players. Social distancing has been mandated throughout all workouts. After each group session, cleaning and disinfecting will take place.
Next Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. The TSSAA Board of Control also voted to table the discussion on classification and requested that staff try to secure a location to hold a face-to-face meeting for that session.