After adhering to Gov. Bill Lee's executive order on contact sports and delaying the football and girls soccer seasons through Aug. 29, the TSSAA has shared its plan for how to move ahead. 

TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress gave the Board of Control three plans for football and a plan for girls soccer to consider in order to allow those sports the opportunity to still have seasons this fall, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Per Childress, the newest order won't be affecting the start of school in Tennessee, so the conversation focused squarely on the impact of the order on sports. 

"Delaying the season in football is not as easy as it is for us to adjust with girls soccer," Childress said in the meeting. "And it's not as easy for coaches who have scheduled games with bordering states who may start on time...some will delay, and some will not.

"But we did put together three options for you all to consider." 

The options pertained to both Division I and II schools. 

The first football option would involve teams starting contact practice on Sunday, Aug. 30, and being able to start the season on Friday, Sept. 18. 

There would be a seven-game regular season and a normal 32-team playoff bracket in this scenario, with the overall season ending right on schedule.

Teams that would not make the playoffs would be allowed to schedule two additional games for the remainder of their regular seasons. 

The second option would involve an Aug. 30 practice start and Sept. 18 regular season start and would involve eight games for the regular season and an abbreviated 16-team playoff bracket.

Only region winners and runners-up would be eligible for the playoffs in this situation. The two extra regular season games still would be allowed for non-playoff teams. 

The TSSAA would reset the regional schedules itself in these two scenarios. 

The third idea would be an eight-team playoff with only region winners qualifying and a nine-game season for all teams. In this situation, teams would keep their schedules as is, with the Sept. 18 regular season start date going from Week 5 games on through what was planned. 

Week 3 games would be played out on Nov. 6, while Week 4 games would be played out on Nov. 13. One of the Week 1 or 2 games would need to be scheduled sometime in that frame, with the TSSAA assisting if they were region games. 

Teams that don't make the playoffs would get a chance to have a 10-game season.

A fourth proposal would involve a ten-game regular season with no state championship, but the TSSAA didn't feel this would be a popular option for debate. 

For girls soccer, the recommendation is to shift the season altogether to later in the fall by a few weeks, with an Aug. 30 target date for the season. 

Soccer coaches could reschedule games and teams would have a chance at a full season and state tournament. 

These will be the options the TSSAA Board of Control will consider in a July 8 meeting. The board approved unanimously to allow for a one-week discussion and consideration period starting Wednesday and ending on that upcoming July date, in which the TSSAA will meet again and decide on a plan for football and girls soccer. 

The TSSAA will not be considering flip-flopping the fall and spring sports at this time, as to avoid causing spring sports to potentially miss a second-straight year. Spring sports were called off altogether this past spring. 

"That's not going to be a recommendation you hear from us," Childress said of flipping schedules. 

The board also voted unanimously to have all member schools follow to the governor's executive order for contact sports. 

Sports like volleyball, golf and cross country were mentioned specifically by name as ones that will continue on as scheduled with the TSSAA calendar. 

TSSAA-sanctioned competitive cheer events will be postponed along with football and girls soccer. 

For the foreseeable future, weight-lifting, conditioning and non-contact fundamental work is what will be allowed after the dead period ends for football, girls soccer, basketball and wrestling through Aug. 29, the TSSAA confirmed. Bowling is exempt from these restrictions.

In a poll with the state's football coaches, the majority preferred a shortened season and playoffs and state games.

Roughly 20% of coaches supported the same plan that Virginia is doing with football, which would shift the schedule dramatically to start fall sports in February and see the sports calendar extend well into the summer, ending around the 2021 dead period. 

The board will know by next week which path will be chosen for football and girls soccer, though with the situation so fluid as one board member noted, things could always change. 

One member mentioned that the TSSAA is working with the governor's office to see if the organization can be granted the same exception that college and professional sports organizations are given, but Childress said the main focus is still making a contingency plan for the fall. 

Tennessee Tech status in doubt for football state

In the meeting, the TSSAA said an issue with Tennessee Tech's availability for state football games in December is available volunteers. 

Childress mentioned the school is open to discussion about the possibility of hosting the state games later this year but it’d be around January or February to be able to pull off games with necessary staffing.

Testing an issue

In regard to testing athletes, Childress said that it would be feasible to expect the level of COVID-19 testing for sports teams like professional and college teams may be able to pull off this fall due to the financial limitations of schools in the state. 

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