The first real blow to having the high school football season kick off on time in Tennessee and Georgia was dealt on Monday.
As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the South, Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s state of emergency declaration until August 29. Hours later, Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia’s state of emergency until August 11.
That likely will push back the time frame for when prep football teams can begin holding contact drills or practicing in pads, which would also move the start of the season back.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said late Monday evening that his staff was meeting to discuss a plan and would likely release a statement on Tuesday.
TSSAA member schools are currently in the final week of the two-week dead period, where athletes are not allowed to workout or train with coaches or on school property. Beginning Monday, July 6, prep football teams were set to resume preseason workouts with July 27 to be the first day they were allowed to begin practicing in full pads.
Scrimmages and jamborees would follow in mid-August and the season was set to kick off on August 21.
However, under Gov. Lee’s recommendation not only are Tennesseans encouraged to wear facial masks and continue social distancing, but recreational gatherings are limited to 50 people and he stated to limit contact sports that have “a substantial likelihood of routine close contact.”
That means high school football teams would be allowed to conduct non-contact practices, similar to what they were doing in June prior to the two-week dead period, but cannot begin allowing contact until August 29 at the earliest.
The order does not include collegiate or professional football in the state as of now.
At least two weeks of practice in pads, including scrimmages, is normally what is needed to prepare players for the season.
Other fall sports such as cross country, volleyball, golf and girls’ soccer are not as likely to be affected due to their limited physical contact between athletes.
One proposal that has been sent to the TSSAA calls for the state’s athletic calendar to swap, moving the football season to the spring of 2021 and swapping baseball, softball, soccer, track and tennis — sports that have previously been played in the spring — to begin in the fall with the reasoning that there is not as much close contact between athletes and because those sports typically do not draw the large crowds that football does.