MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE: During its Wednesday morning, the TSSAA Board announced it would delay a vote on a contingency plan for the upcoming football season. The plan would determine how many regular seasons would still be played and how playoffs would be approached.
The board said it delayed the vote because they are waiting for more information from the governor's office.
ORIGINAL STORY: When Tennessee Governor Bill Lee extended the state's stay-at-home order to August 29, it meant the high school football season and other fall sports would not be able to start on time.
Wednesday morning, the TSSAA Board is expected to make a decision on how it will approach the upcoming football season under current orders. There are currently four plans that vary from condensing the regular season and shortening playoffs.
TSSAA said currently fall practices would begin August 30. The first football games would be allowed September 18th about five weeks behind schedule.
“Football, our bylaws do require that everyone play everyone in their region so we need to make sure that happens and then board will decide how much of the regular season do we waive with how much of a post season that we have so we have to find what that balance is," Matthew Gillespie, TSSAA Assistant Executive Director, said.
Gillespie said scheduling football is made more difficult since it is a sport traditionally played once a week, when COVID-19 can later throw out any plan made Wednesday.
“If we have to again two to three weeks from now scrap everything and now what do we do? We’re now in a worst situation than we were back then," Gillespie said. "I think we’re at a point where we want to do what we can to get them on the field."
In the meantime, a great deal of anxiety lies with players and coaches as they sit and wait to see what, if anything, will become of the fall season.
Whitehaven Football Head Coach Rodney Saulsberry Jr. said he can feel that anxiety building with his players.
“They’re very eager and the uncertainty is bothersome," he said. "So they’re worried. You can see a little bit of stress. We try to temperate it and try and focus on getting their mental mindset focused on the right things. Control what you can control. You can’t control, obviously no one can control this pandemic."
Saulsberry said he remains optimistic and hopeful that his players will get to play to some degree this fall. Currently, the team would be participating in summer practices and 7v7 match-ups, but they are still not allowed to start due to COVID-19.
“We miss the game," he said. "We miss the opportunity to get out there and perform and to just give the kids the opportunity to enjoy the game of football, the enjoyment and the release that it gives them from some of the trials and tribulations of every day life."
The TSSAA Board meeting begins at 10 a.m. and can be listened to here.
The board will consider four potential options for the season:
- If the executive order expires on Aug. 29, practice would begin on Aug. 30 with the first game on Sept. 18. All regular season schedules for schools would be replaced by the state office with a seven-week region schedule for all schools. Playoffs would be conducted as usual, but schools that do not make the playoffs would be able to play two extra games after the regular season.
- If the executive order expires on Aug. 29, practice could begin on Aug. 30 with the first game on Sept. 18. All regular season schedules for schools would be replaced by the state office with an eight-week region schedule. The regular season would extend into Week 12 and the first-round of the playoffs would be eliminated (only region champions and runners-up would qualify). Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs would be able to play two extra games after the regular season.
- If the executive order expires on Aug. 29, practice would begin on Aug. 30 with the first game on Sept. 18. Schools would keep their current schedule and begin play with the Week 5 game on September 18. Games scheduled against member schools for Week 3 would be played in Week 12. Games scheduled against member schools for Week 4 would be played in Week 13. Only region champions would advance to the playoffs beginning in Week 14. Schools that do not qualify for the playoffs would be able to play one extra game.
- Cancel playoffs and championships. Start practice on August 30. Schools play games as scheduled beginning with Week 5 games on September 18. Move games against member schools from Weeks 1-4 to Weeks 12-15.