High school football and girls’ soccer in Tennessee will proceed as scheduled and in full.
Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday afternoon that he will sign Executive Order No. 55, which allows contact sports to resume for high school sports, provided they follow the requirements of the TSSAA.
Lee made the announcement as part of the Safe Reopening Plan for Tennessee Schools he unveiled Tuesday in a press conference. Lee later confirmed via his Twitter page that he issued the new executive order.
The TSSAA, in a press release later Tuesday evening, confirmed that contact practices may begin as soon as Lee signs Executive Order No. 55.
All girls’ soccer teams can begin contact practice at that point, while football teams must still undergo the required five days of heat acclimatization before conducting practice in full equipment. The football heat acclimatization period began July 20 as normal, so many football teams in the state have already completed that requirement.
“We appreciate being able to work with Gov. Lee and his staff on this,” said TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress. “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.”
The new executive order also allows football and girls’ soccer seasons to start and end as originally scheduled. Girls’ soccer will begin competition Monday, Aug. 17, with that sport’s state tournaments taking place Oct. 28-31 in Murfreesboro.
Football will begin competition the week of Friday, Aug. 21, and no changes to the football season, regular season or playoffs, will take place. The new executive order prevented the contingency plan approved last week from needing to take effect. State championship games for football will proceed Dec. 3-5 in Cookeville.
“This is good news for many kids and their families,” Childress said. “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.”
Had the start of contact practice been delayed past Monday, Aug. 3, the first week of football would have been eliminated, which could’ve put the Black & Blue Game between county rivals McMinn County and McMinn Central in danger of not taking place this season.
That is no longer a concern, and the Cherokees and Chargers will now kick off as scheduled 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at McMinn County High School.
Although contact practice is permitted, all regulations and requirements for practice and competition adopted by the TSSAA Board of Control last week to address COVID-19 are still in place for all sports in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Scrimmages, 7-on-7 football competitions, joint practices and jamborees are prohibited in those regulations, so none of those will take place before the start of a sport’s season this year.
“Children across the state are counting on us — school administrators and coaches — to proceed with practices and competitions safely while being very mindful of the requirements and modifications that we have put in place,” Childress said. “Our return to play is a partnership, and it’s important for everyone to do their part.”
Executive Order No. 55 also allows non-TSSAA schools to resume contact sports as long as they follow equivalent guidelines to the ones the TSSAA passes. Non-school-sponsored athletics may also resume contact as long as they follow the Tennessee Pledge guidelines, which will be updated.