The TSSAA approved contingency plans for football and girls soccer last Wednesday if the 2020 season doesn’t start on time.

In football, the Board of Control voted on a “hybrid” plan similar to the original Option 2.

“We’re maximizing our ability to play as much of the original schedule if we don’t start on Sept. 18,” TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said. “It allows the coaches to keep their schedule intact as much as possible.”

One football option considered called for the TSSAA to schedule all region games for teams across the state. The region champion and runner-up would make the playoffs and a 16-team bracket would be used. Additionally, the plan called for the season to start on Sept. 18. This option was favored by 48 percent of coaches across the state, according to a survey conducted by the Tennessee Football Coaches Association.

However, the “hybrid” plan would kick in when Gov. Bill Lee’s State Of Emergency order through Aug. 29 is lifted or allows the TSSAA to be exempt. Teams would be allowed three weeks of contact practices. It also allows teams to keep their original schedule, rather than the TSSAA assigning them. Only the top two teams from each region will make the playoffs.

If the season were to begin a week or two later rather than Sept. 18, the “hybrid” plan would allow teams to keep the majority of their schedule.

For example, if two teams from the same region are scheduled to play Week 1 and the season doesn’t start until a week or two later, they would play each other when they have the same open date later in the season. If not, they each would drop a non-region opponent on the same week to allow them to still play one another.

In girls’ soccer, if the season doesn’t start on time, the contingency plan would be to extend the season two weeks sand hold the state championships Nov. 11-14.

The plan would kick in if the season doesn’t start by Aug. 9.

Football and girls soccer teams can continue conditioning and individual drills that do not involve contact.

Cross country, golf and volleyball are not considered high-risk and can still start on time provided that teams follow the regulations. Golf matches start as soon as July 28, while cross country meets and volleyball games begin in mid-August.

“Our goal is to have an ordinary season as much as possible,” Childress said. “The contingency plans we are talking about today are out there just in case we cannot have a full season. We have to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

“Given the circumstances, high school sports will clearly look different this year. We just have to be flexible and understand that in this unique situation, we’re all going through the same thing and trying to make the best decisions for young people.”

The Board decided that regular season games in any sport canceled by COVID-19 outbreaks will be considered a “no-contest” with neither team receiving a win or loss. If a team has an outbreak during the postseason and cannot play, that team would be eliminated and the tournament would proceed.

The Board also voted to allow students who choose virtual schooling options to participate in sports.

COVID-19 regulations

The Board also passed the following COVID-19 regulations for all sports until further notice:

1. Temperature checks are required for all coaches, players and team personnel prior to every practice. Anyone whose temperature measures 100.4 or greater must be sent home immediately and may not return to participation until he/she provides documentation that they have tested negative for COVID-19 or obtained a medical evaluation by a physician verifying that COVID-19 is not the cause of his/her fever.

2. No coach, player, or team personnel may participate in practice or a contest without first completing appropriate COVID-19 screening. Persons should not participate while ill. If the answer is “YES” to any of those questions, the coach, player, or team personnel may not participate until obtaining an evaluation by a medical provider verifying

3. No scrimmages, jamborees, 7-on-7 practice, or other types of practice with other teams is permitted. 

4. At contests all coaches, players, team personnel, officials, administrators, and fans must have their temperatures checked before entering the facility. No one whose temperature measures 100.4 or greater may be admitted. 

5. At each contest the following symptom checklist shall be posted prominently at the spectator entrance(s) instructing that anyone who is experiencing any of these symptoms during the preceding 7 days must not be admitted: Fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, shaking chills, chest pain, pressure of tightness with exercise, fatigue or difficulty with exercise, racing heart rate, unusual dizziness, loss of taste of smell, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, unusual rash or painful discoloration of fingers or toes.

6. At contests in localities where fan attendance is permitted, member schools are encouraged to limit fan attendance to a number that will allow adequate social distancing (e.g., one-fourth to one-third of typical seating capacity, depending on the characteristics of the particular venue) and should mark/designate bleachers or seats in order to promote social distancing among spectators

7. Member schools will require that all fans wear facial coverings at all times while onsite (except children under age 2) and maintain social distancing (6 feet, or the equivalent of two empty seats between themselves and other fans) from anyone other than those living in the same household.

8. The temperature check and questionnaire requirements of Items 1 and 2 above, as well as the social distancing requirement of Item 7, shall also apply to members of a school band or pep band, cheerleaders or other similar student groups attending a contest in a supporting role.

9. If a public address system is in use for a contest, the host school will make public service announcements at various times during the contest to remind those in attendance to use masks and maintain physical distancing.

10. The host school is responsible for providing staff to engage in frequent cleaning and sanitizing of restroom facilities during contests.

11. Concession stands are discouraged because they tend to invite gatherings of people in close quarters. If a member school chooses to operate a concession stand at a contest, signage or other appropriate markings must be in place to encourage customers to maintain physical distancing while standing in line.

12. All coaches must complete the free NFHS online course “COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators,” before the first contest (preferably as soon as possible).

“The regulations and guidelines the Board passed today go into effect immediately for all sports,” Childress said. “We’re hopeful that the prohibition on contact sports will be lifted before August 29, but if it’s not, the Board of Control has put some policies in place to help keep our kids and communities safe and lay out a roadmap to the start of our football and girls’ soccer seasons.”

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