The TSSAA Board of control met Wednesday morning in an online meeting to discuss the status of high school athletics after Gov. Bill Lee’s latest COVID-19 emergency order extension to Aug. 29.
The board focused on the fall’s “high-risk contact” sports – specifically football, but also including girls’ soccer – and how to manage their seasons since official practices cannot start for those sports until Aug. 30, a day after the latest order from the governor. The TSSAA did say cross country, volleyball and golf will be able to follow the regular school calendar.
“Those high-risk sports right now can only have conditioning, practice social distancing and no competition whatsoever,” TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said of football and soccer. “If they do practice fundamentals, no contact whatsoever. They can have no contact, even with their teammates.”
The TSSAA produced several options to move forward with a football season and is leaning toward simply pushing back the beginning of the girls’ soccer season a couple weeks to accommodate the state’s emergency order, which conflicts with preseason works and adds stress on multispot athletes later in the fall. The board of control will meet again July 8 to finalize their decisions and vote on how to move forward.
The breakdown of options for high school football with practices set to begin on Aug. 30 and first games on Sept. 18 include:
• Option 1 – a 7-game regular season with 32-team playoff brackets. The playoffs would start as scheduled and the TSSAA would set the region schedules. Also, teams that don’t make the playoffs would be allowed to play two more games for a total of nine.
• Option 2 – 8-game season with 16-team playoff bracket. Only the region champion and runner-up would make the playoffs in this scenario. The first week of the playoffs would be the final week of the regular season and the TSSAA would again set the region schedule.
• Option 3 – 9-game season with 8-team playoff bracket. Only the region champion would make the playoffs. The first two weeks of playoffs would be the final two regular season games and the schools keep their current schedule beginning with Week 5 (Sept. 18). Teams would go back to play Week 3 games on Nov. 6 and Week 4 games on Nov. 13.
A fourth option, which Childress said lacked much support, was to start the season on Sept. 18 and pickup the earlier scheduled games later and not have state championships.
A quick poll on Twitter that recorded 200 votes within an hour, indicated Option 2 as a favorite.
TSSAA's 3 options for high school football --> 1: 7-game regular season with 32-team playoffs w/full postseason; 2: 8-game season w/16-team playoffs (region champs, runners-up make playoffs); 3: 9-game season w/8-team playoffs (means only region champion qualifies for postseason)— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) July 1, 2020
“(Our) main focus has to be going forward – how do we have a girls soccer season, successful tournament and how do we have a football season and successful playoffs,” Childress said. “Cross country, golf and volleyball are going to be on schedule right now after the dead period.”
The TSSAA dead period is scheduled to end July 6.
Early in the meeting, Childess briefly entertained the idea of switching fall sports with spring sports – an idea that gained little traction online.
"We have a responsibility to protect those spring sports athletes as much as possible because they have already sacrificed a lot," he said. "(Switching) is not going to be a recommendation you're going to hear from us."
Most baseball, boys soccer, track and field and other spring sports athletes had their season canceled before they began this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.