TSSAA sets football contingency plan, year-long guidelines

There is a contingency plan for football in Tennessee for this season, should Gov. Bill Lee not exempt high school sports from the current emergency order.

The TSSAA Board of Control voted Wednesday to move ahead with a hybrid plan based off of one of the other contingency plans presented by the state association earlier this month.

It’s based on Plan 2 from the earlier meetings and would only take effect if the season cannot start on time.

It would take effect only if the season can’t start on time and would feature an eight-game regular season and four weeks of playoffs, meaning only the top two teams in each region would qualify for the postseason.

There is not, however, a definitive start date with the plan. Teams would complete a required acclimation period and three weeks of practice before any games are played.

It all depends on when (or if) the governor’s order is lifted for high school sports. If it’s lifted before Aug. 3 and contact practice can begin on that date, the season would be on track to start as originally scheduled. The TSSAA has a video to explain the plan.

However, if contact practice does not begin by Aug. 3, all Week 1 region games – there are five total statewide – must be moved to a later date in order to be played. Centennial and Ravenwood face each other in Week 1, so that game would be moved to a week where either both teams share an open date, or where both teams have a non-region game.

If contact practice does not begin on or by Aug. 10, any Week 2 region games must be rescheduled. There are 13 of those statewide. All non-region games in the first two weeks would be cancelled.

If there’s still no contact practice on Aug. 17, the playoff field in each Division I class goes from 32 to 16 – only the top two in each region would advance. All Week 3 games – both region and non-region – would be moved to Week 12, what would have been the first week of the playoffs.

If the order is still in place on Aug. 24, all Week 4 region games must be rescheduled, and nine-team regions would be seeded for the playoffs by “pod” structures in the football scheduling memorandum sent to coaches and administrators.

After Aug. 31, additional contingency plans would need to be considered.

If the first round of playoffs is lost in this scenario, teams could schedule up to two additional games after regular season play ends.

Also determined Wednesday is the procedure for teams that experience an outbreak during the season. If it’s in the regular season, the game will be considered a “no contest” for the afflicted program, with the healthy team getting a win. If it happens during the postseason, afflicted teams will be forced to forfeit the game and be eliminated from the playoffs. Opponents would receive a bye and advance to the next round.

Other regulations set by the board, effective immediately, for all athletic contests and practices for the school year:

  • Temperature checks for all players, coaches and team personnel prior to practices. Anyone with a 100.4 temperature or higher must be sent home immediately. They would not be allowed to return until they test negative for COVID-19 or a physician examines them and proves that COVID-19 was not the cause of the fever.
  • Every coach, player and team personnel member must complete a COVID-19 screening/questionnaire in order to participate.
  • No scrimmages, jamborees or 7-on-7 contests with other teams are permitted.
  • Anyone entering the facility for an athletic contest must have temperature checks performed before being allowed to enter.
  • COVID-19 symptoms must be posted and displayed prominently at each contest or school.
  • Member schools are encouraged to limit fan attendance to a number that will allow for physical and social distancing.
  • Member schools will require that all fans wear facial coverings at all times – except for fans 2 years old or younger – and maintain social distancing.
  • Temperature checks and screening/questionnaires will apply to bands, cheerleaders and student organizations at the contests.
  • Public address announcers are to make multiple announcements reminding those in attendance to wear masks and practice social distancing.
  • Frequent cleaning and sanitation is encouraged.
  • Concessions will be discouraged, but not outlawed. If they are used, steps must be taken to ensure social distancing and fewer concession workers.
  • All coaches in all sports must complete a free NFHS COVID-19 online education course.

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