On Tuesday afternoon Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s COVID-19 State of Emergency order to Aug. 29.
According to a press release from the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, that means “member schools cannot have close contact activities during their fundamental practice in the sports of football, 7-on-7 football, girls’ soccer, wrestling and basketball.”
The high school football season was scheduled to begin Aug. 21. That’s not going to happen.
Some decisions have to be made. The TSSAA’s Board of Control held a meeting Wednesday morning to begin that process.
Several plans are being considered.
The one that seems most likely is beginning the season Sept. 18, playing eight regular season games instead of 10 and eliminating the first round of the playoffs.
The TSSAA is also considering asking the governor’s office to consider putting high school sports in the same category as college and professional teams, which are exempt from the governor’s order.
One idea was to move football and other fall sports to the spring and move spring sports like baseball and softball to the fall.
Spring sports teams saw their season cancelled earlier this year because of COVID-19. If spring sports teams tried to play in the fall and the governor’s order was extended again, they could miss two straight seasons.
That proposal was nixed pretty quickly by Bernard Childress, the TSSAA’s executive director.
“That’s not going to be a recommendation you’re going to hear from us today,” Childress said. “They’ve (spring sport athletes) already sacrificed a lot.”
The Tennessee Football Coaches Association sent a survey to Tennessee’s coaches to get their preference. Fifty-five percent voted to push the season back and 15 percent wanted to swap the fall and spring seasons.
Childress said he expects the TSSAA to make a decision on July 8.
The governor’s announcement to extend the order came as a suprise to coaches, school officials and the TSSAA, according to Covington football coach J.R. Kirby.
“I know this was a shock to the TSSAA,” he said. “They did not know the governor was going to do this.”
The hope was that teams could begin practice with contact in the coming weeks and begin the season on time.
If the plan to eliminate the first two games of the season is adopted, it would be financially devastating to Covington and Munford.
The two teams were scheduled to play each other in Week 1 and Munford was to host Millington the following week. Both games are typically sellouts and big money makers.
“That game just about pays our bills for the entire year,” Munford coach Slade Calhoun said.
“I think we need to play in the fall if we can,” Kirby said. “If we have to cut two games, we’ll do it. It’s hard for me to say that because we open up with Munford and that’s a gate that pays the bills. It is what it is. It would be tough.”
Kirby said moving football to the spring would be difficult because that would mean that season would end in May and then presumably begin again in three months.
“Then baseball and softball would have to sit for a year and a half,” Kirby said.
If the governor does not extend his order beyond Aug,. 29, teams could get going Aug. 31, begin contact drills and hopefully get in a scrimmage to prepare for the Sept. 18 opener.
“Most of the coaches I talked to in our area want to play in the fall,” Kirby said. “Some Shelby County coaches want the spring. If that is the last option, we’ll deal with it. We’ll buckle up and go to war, but I hope we can get it done this fall.”