The extension of the COVID-19 emergency in Tennessee has delayed the start of the high school football and girls soccer seasons.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has extended the COVID-19 state of emergency until August 29. A prior order by the governor includes limitations and restrictions on contact sporting events and activities.
In an update sent to member schools on Tuesday, Bernard Childress, executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, said member schools cannot have any competition or scrimmage with other schools while the governor’s order is in place. The schools cannot have close contact activities during practice for football, 7-on-7 football, girls soccer, wrestling, and basketball. Football and girls soccer cannot begin their seasons as originally scheduled, Childress said.
The Oak Ridge football season opener had been scheduled for August 21.
The TSSAA Board of Control had a special meeting Wednesday and voted unanimously to require that member schools follow the governor’s executive order for sports activities.
The board discussed the effect that the extended COVID-19 state of emergency will have on contact sports in the fall. Football, girls soccer, and competitive cheer are considered contact sports.
Currently, only weightlifting, conditioning, and fundamental work with no contact is allowed for football, soccer, girls soccer, wrestling, basketball, and competitive cheer, the TSSAA said after Wednesday’s meeting.
On Twitter, Oak Ridge football coach Joe Gaddis said football practice will resume on Monday, July 6, under the same guidelines that the team had in June.
High school football players in Tennessee will not be permitted to participate in 7-on-7 competitions due to the extended state of emergency.
Cross country, golf, and volleyball will be able to continue, with accommodations, as scheduled, the TSSAA said.
While the association does not sanction cheerleading, it does offer a competitive cheer and dance championship, and competitive cheer would fall under the governor’s order impacting contact sports, the TSSAA said.
The organization is studying the possibility of postponing the state championship for girls soccer to allow a few more weeks for the regular season. Practice could begin on August 30, with the potential to extend the season and have the state championships a few weeks later than normal, the TSSAA said.
The TSSAA has asked the governor’s office if it would consider putting TSSAA in the same category with in-state college and professional teams, which are exempt from the governor’s executive order. That could allow contact as originally scheduled, said Stephen Hargis, sports editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Four plans for football were discussed by the TSSAA Board on Wednesday. Here are the four options:
- If the governor’s order expires on August 29, practice would begin on August 30 with the first game on September 18. All regular-season schedules for schools would be replaced by the state office with a seven-week region schedule for all schools. Playoffs would be conducted as usual, but schools that do not make the playoffs would be able to play two extra games after the regular season.
- If the executive order expires on August 29, practice could begin on August 30 with the first game on September 18. All regular-season schedules for schools would be replaced by the state office with an eight-week region schedule. The regular season would extend into Week 12 and the first-round of the playoffs would be eliminated (only region champions and runners-up would qualify). Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs would be able to play two extra games after the regular season.
- If the executive order expires on August 29, practice would begin on August 30 with the first game on September 18. Schools would keep their current schedule and begin play with the Week 5 game on September 18. Games scheduled against member schools for Week 3 would be played in Week 12. Games scheduled against member schools for Week 4 would be played in Week 13. Only region champions would advance to the playoffs beginning in Week 14. Schools that do not qualify for the playoffs would be able to play one extra game.
- Cancel playoffs and championships. Start practice on August 30. Schools play games as scheduled beginning with Week 5 games on September 18. Move games against member schools from Weeks 1-4 to Weeks 12-15.
The Board will meet again on July 8 to make a decision regarding football.
The Board also voted to table a discussion on classification and requested that the staff try to secure a location to hold a face-to-face meeting for the classification study session.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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