It sounds so simple, yet it bears repeating.
Follow the rules if you are hoping to play, coach, officiate or simply watch high school football and girls soccer in the fall in Tennessee.
That advice came from Bernard Childress, the executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, during a Board of Control meeting on Wednesday morning, which continues to explore options created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If we want to have any chance of having fall sports, you need to help us out,” said Childress, the TSSAA’s executive director. “People need to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands and we need to get our numbers down because that is going to be the key.
“The return on that investment would be we get to have fall sports hopefully on time this year.”
Folks from across the Volunteer State listened in on the Board of Control’s meeting on Wednesday, hoping to learn what the TSSAA had in mind for the upcoming fall sports season, specifically for football and girls soccer.
After a brief delay for an executive session meeting that ran long, the answer never came.
“We are working with the governor’s legal counsel and based on our conversation that we are having,” Childress said, “we think right now it is best to delay any vote on a contingency plan.”
The TSSAA was expected to select one of the four options released last week for a delayed football season that would have begun on Sept. 18, with regular practice for contact sports beginning on Aug. 30.
The options for football included anywhere from seven to nine games, in addition to playoffs, or another option that would have allowed 10 regular season games with a late start and no playoffs.
Childress still has hope for another option.
The TSSAA has asked Gov. Bill Lee’s office to place high school football in the same category as college and professional football, which would exempt it from Lee’s Executive Order that limits what contact sports can do until Aug. 29.
That order reduces contact sports to weight-lifting, conditioning and fundamental drills, but no contact. Sports like volleyball, cross country and golf will be allowed to proceed as scheduled, according to the TSSAA’s ruling last week.
Childress said on Wednesday that the governor’s office needed more time to examine the increasing coronavirus numbers, which have spiked in many states in recent weeks.
“The governor’s legal counsel stated that they need time to observe the data and work with us,” said Childress, who said the organization still has time on their side.
“There will come a time when we have to make a decision on a contingency plan, but right now it is our opinion that we need to give their legal team an opportunity to see if it is even needed in girls soccer and football,” he said. “Their legal counselors are well aware of the TSSAA sports calendar and we will get an answer as soon we can.”
Childress shared some advice that was provided by a member of that legal team.
“We still have some time. As one of their legal counselors said to us in a very lengthy meeting [Tuesday], “let’s hope for the best and we need to plan for the worse.”
“We have the plans, but it is not necessary for us to make that decision today,” he said. “We need to give them the opportunity to do what they need to do to watch the data.”
Childress added that the TSSAA would have no further comment while the legal counsel continues to examine the situation, but that progress was being made.
“That is all I would have to say about that other than we are making progress,” he said. “We want to continue to work with the governor’s legal counsel and we will update the board and the public and everyone when we come to a final decision with them.”
No deadline for a decision was made.
The Board of Control will meet next for a study session on the upcoming classification model on July 22 in Murfreesboro.
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