The start of high school football and girls soccer seasons in Tennessee will be delayed after Gov. Bill Lee announced that he was extending the State of Emergency until Aug. 29.
“While the Governor’s order is in place, member schools cannot have any competition or scrimmage with other schools and cannot have close contact activities during their fundamental practice in the sports of football, 7-on-7 football, girls soccer, wrestling and basketball,” TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said in a prepared statement.
Girls soccer and football were scheduled to begin their regular seasons the week of Aug. 17. Because contact sports are not allowed until at least the end of August, Childress said that timeline will not work.
Non-contact fall sports like cross country, golf and volleyball were not mentioned. Their seasons could still start on time depending on what the TSSAA Board of Control decides to do with the sports calendar.
“We are in the process of developing regular season and postseason options to present to the TSSAA Board of Control for their consideration,” Childress said. “The Board will ultimately make the decision as to how this will impact the postseason and if any adjustments can be made to regular season competition.”
The TSSAA Board discussed several season and playoff possibilities last week.
Gillespie said the state football playoff revenue makes up about one-third of the TSSAA’s operating budget, but half of that goes to pay for catastrophic insurance.
“In our operating budget in our pocket it’s really about 15 percent,” he said. “It would hurt member schools more, but we just want them to get back on the field some way or another.”
The TSSAA has cancelled the last two days of the girls basketball state tournament, the entire boys basketball state tournament, and the Spring Fling spring sports championships this year.
Last week TSSAA schools were in the second week of the annual summer dead period, which bars coaches and athletes from participating in games or workouts on school property. Preseason football workouts were set to resume on July 6 and football practices with pads could start as soon as July 27. Football teams typically practice at least three weeks in pads before their first game.
TSSAA Assistant Executive Director Mark Reeves said he has been in contact with the governor’s office about exempting high school sports from the latest emergency declaration. That would allow contact practices to begin in late July and seasons to potentially start on time, but a final decision has not been made.
“(The state) simply said, ‘We are willing to listen,’ ” Childress said. “We did not get any inclination that we are going to be exempt.”
In the first two weeks of the football season, Harpeth was scheduled to play two home games, against Jo Byrns and Hickman County. Cheatham County Central’s first scheduled game of the season was to be a home contest against Hillwood with Week Two being a game at Whites Creek. Sycamore’s schedule had the War Eagles hosting both Montgomery Central and Hunters Lane to start the season.
WHAT THE FOOTBALL COACHES SAY
Reaction from high school football coaches in Cheatham County to postponing of contact practice and the first two weeks of the regular season:
“The TSSAA is working within the parameters established by Governor Lee to keep our student athletes as safe as possible. We’re still grateful for the opportunity to play and want to make the most of it.” — Doug Loope, Harpeth
“I support the Governors decision. The general population just can’t follow simple requests for public safety. It was a given that the virus would spike again with vacations and travel. I am concerned about my players and staff. I guess we will scrap our original July plans and go back to lifting and conditioning. With the two-week break we have had time to re-evaluate and adapt our plan to include position drills that will avoid any contact. The players are getting a little concerned about having a season. All we can do is follow the rules and hope for the best.” — Gary Halstead, Cheatham County Central
“I am not surprised. I kind of figured it would happen with how things are playing out right now. I am glad to see that they are trying to have a season. I have a lot of seniors have been looking forward to their senior year. I have seen how that affected senior athletes last spring. I will go with what they give me and make it the best I can for everyone. In the grand scheme of things these players health and well-being are the most important thing.” — Mark Hall, Sycamore