After a few days of delay, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee officially signed Executive Order No. 55 Friday, clearing the way for contact sports this fall.
There was some confusion after Tuesday's announcement of the order of when it would be signed and go into affect, but those worries are now no more.
The TSSAA confirmed in an email Friday that Gov. Lee had indeed signed the order. Contact sports like football and girls soccer will now officially be ready for full participation and regular season games when the time comes.
The governor's office released details the order Friday evening (seen below).
“Athletics is an important part of our way of life and provides many benefits for our student-athletes, but common-sense precautions must be taken to combat COVID-19,” said Gov. Lee in a release. “We have worked directly with the TSSAA to coordinate a framework so that football season and soccer seasons can begin while keeping student-athletes, staff, and fans safe.
“This order will also continue to give local governments the authority to determine mask requirements for their respective constituencies. Adopting mask requirements at the local level has helped achieve greater community buy-in as Tennesseans adopt a new habit to protect lives and livelihoods.”
Now the decision will come down to Williamson County Schools as to if the county schools will indeed be able to go along with this mandate. WCS has previously indicated it will abide by TSSAA guidelines, which would mean all contact sports would start now.
But with Metro Schools delaying preps sports until after Labor Day and Tennessee counties like Knox and Henry halting sports for now, it's possible Williamson could alter its sports plans. In-person learning is on hold for now for grades 3-12 in the county.
But, as all stands now, all schools in Williamson County can begin contact practice immediately, with football under a bit of a longer timeline due to heat acclimatization requirements for athletes.
The full order is below, per the governor's website:
Executive Order No. 55:
- Extends through August 29 Executive Order No. 54, which provides local government authority concerning face coverings
- Strongly encourages schools to adopt a policy requiring face coverings for staff and students of appropriate age and makes clear that students, teachers, school employees or contractors, and school visitors may voluntarily wear face coverings, except as necessary to ensure school safety and security
- Extends for 30 days (as permitted by statute) Executive Order No. 53 providing limited COVID-19-related liability protection for health care providers and hospitals
- Aligns the treatment of contact and non-contact sports so that no sports are prohibited by the state, provided that participants follow safety guidelines from their governing bodies or Tennessee Pledge guidelines, as applicable
- Reinstates or adds certain regulatory flexibility to cope with COVID-19, including:
- Incorporates recently issued federal waivers regarding commercial driver licenses;
- Waives Alcoholic Beverage Commission fees for outdoor expansion of restaurant premises due to COVID-19;
- Directs TennCare and the Department of Health to establish and reimburse certain COVID-specific skilled nursing facilities; and
- Allows licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselors to practice telemedicine to the same extent as other licensed health care providers during this emergency.
Below is the full message from the TSSAA:
Executive Order No. 55, first announced this past Tuesday, was signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee today, making contact during practice now permissible in the sports of football and girls' soccer. Other fall sports, including golf, cross country, and volleyball were not affected by the State of Emergency Order that prohibited contact sports.
Although contact practice is now permissible, the regulations and requirements for practice and competition adopted by the Board of Control at their July 22 meeting are still in place for all sports and must be followed. Visit the Tennessee Returns to Play page of TSSAA.org for complete details.
The Date of First Contest for girls' soccer remains as originally scheduled, Aug. 17, with the state championships to be held Oct. 28-31 in Murfreesboro.
Football teams were allowed to begin heat acclimatization on July 20th. Each athlete must complete heat acclimatization (2 days of helmets only, 3 days in helmets and shoulder pads) before practicing in full equipment, which is now permitted.