Athletes across the state of Tennessee breathed sighs of relief Tuesday afternoon when Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 55 authorizing contact sports to begin on time.
The order allows football teams to begin practice Aug. 3 with the first games scheduled Aug. 21.
The TSSAA previously had approved a proposal that would allow contact football and girls soccer to begin practice as scheduled if Lee exempted those sports from the emergency order he issued in the latter part of June. The order runs through Aug. 29, and without the exemption teams across the state would have had to push their seasons back
“We appreciate being able to work with Gov. Lee and his staff on this,” said Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletics Association said in a released statement Tuesday. “I am pleased that we were able to develop some very specific guidelines for every sport that will allow our kids to get out on their fields and fully participate in football and girls’ soccer this fall.”
Regulations set forth and adopted by the Board of Control earlier this month will still be in place for all sports and schools will be required to follow the requirements. Those include temperature checks for all coaches, players and team personnel prior to every practice. It also directs anyone whose temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees to be immediately sent home. They will not be allowed to return to practice until documentation is provided showing they have tested negative for COVID-19 or have obtained a medical evaluation by a doctor that verifies COVID-19 is not the cause of the fever.
Football teams have been allowed to begin heat acclimation since Monday. The acclimation period calls for two days of helmets only, three days in helmets and shoulder pads before practicing in full uniforms.
The order also makes it possible for teams to play a full 10-game schedule. A season of eight games had been adopted pending the governor's decision. State championships will stake place Dec. 3-5, in Cookeville as scheduled.
However, there will be no regular scrimmages or 7-on-7 scrimmages and no jamborees. All fans, coaches, players, officials, administrators and team personnel must submit to temperature checks before entering a facility. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be admitted. Symptom checklists will be prominently posted at each facility entrance.
Schools will be encouraged to limit spectator numbers and practice social distancing with designated bleachers and seats to promote proper spacing among those in attendance. TSSAA member schools must require spectators to wear facial coverings at all times and maintain social distancing. This directive also applies to bands, cheerleaders and other groups in supporting roles. Concessions stands are discouraged due to large numbers of people that tend to gather close together.
“This is good news for many kids and their families,” Childress said in the statement, “but the reality is that the virus will continue to be with us and we have to be smart about taming the spread. Every adult and every participant in every sport must do their part and follow the guidelines set forth by TSSAA and the Governor’s office to help mitigate these risks.”