Two days ahead of the TSSAA’s scheduled vote for a condensed football season, Tullahoma players and coaches were allowed to return to the practice field on Monday.
While players returned to work, things looked a little different, as each member was spaced out at least 6 feet from each other to social distance and were not able to perform contact drills. That will be how practices continue moving forward for the foreseeable future, according to restrictions placed by the TSSAA last week.
In a memo sent to all schools on June 30, 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 that same 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.
Last Wednesday, the TSSAA met to solely focus 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 the Board of Control is slated to vote during a meeting this Wednesday. In last week’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.
Tullahoma and other teams across the state returned 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 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.
This Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Those wanting to listen live, can do so by visiting tssaasports.com/nfhsnetwork/meeting.cfm.