About 10 times a day, Bernard Childress gets asked the same question:
Will there be a high school football season this fall?
“That’s impossible for us to answer right now,” said Childress, the TSSAA executive director. “We don’t know. I mean, I don’t think anyone in the nation knows right now. I just got off a Zoom call with every (state athletic association) director in the nation and no one has an answer right now.”
Reopening during the coronavirus pandemic is a gradual process with new information emerging daily.
“The situation is still so fluid, so we’re not able to make any decisions right now,” Childress said. “Right now, you’ve got to follow the local heath department and (Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention) guidelines as far as social distancing and the number of people that can be in a group.”
Teams must also follow guidelines as to what each school allows on its campus.
“We’re just working with our Tennessee Sports Medicine Advisory Committee along with the National Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to try to come up with some guidelines as to return to playing and what those recommendations would be,” Childress said. “They’ll be based on where each school system or county or independent school is as far as what phase they’re in; one, two or three. It’s a local issue because every county is different.”
Williamson County had the seventh-most COVID-19 cases of any county in the state with 492 as of Wednesday, including 10 deaths.
Childress doesn’t think there will be a domino effect for high school football if the NFL and colleges play their seasons.
“I don’t think that would be a factor because what we’re looking at is what’s best for the safety of our student athletes and the people that participate,” Childress said. “When you’re looking at the majority of the colleges and the NFL, you’re talking about adults making a decision as to which way they want to go.”
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is making its decision for minors, trying to keep them safe.
One possible scenario is games with limited crowds to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I don’t think anything is off the table right now,” Childress said. “Oh my gosh, every day you wake up you’re finding out something different.”
Playing a contact sport like football safely during a pandemic is a difficult proposition.
“The experts are saying when you look at football being a contact sport, it is in that high-risk category,” Childress said. “You have some sports that they consider moderate risk and some low risk. Moderate risk is baseball, for example, but low risk would be golf. We’ll just have to get as much information as we can before we make a decision.”