COVID-19 is again creating havoc in the high school sports world.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed three executive orders, one of which limits contact sports through Aug. 29.Tennessee, like other states around the country, had been opening its economy, including allowing some dine-in eating and hair salons, but coronavirus cases have rocketed up in the last week, causing some states to pull back.
The order “allows the continued suspension of various laws and regulations and other measures in these orders to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and protecting vulnerable populations,” according to the most recent announcement.
Order No. 50 “limits contact sports with a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine close contact. This does not apply to collegiate or professional sports conducted under the rules or guidelines of their respective governing bodies and does not prohibit training or otherwise practicing the elements of such sports that do not involve close contact with persons.”
Meigs County Football Coach Jason Fitzgerald said the order in effect keeps the status quo. Football teams can practice, once the TSSAA dead period ends, but the state will have to enter Phase 3 in order to play games. Tennessee is currently in Phase 2.
Meigs, McMinn Central and McMinn County are all currently scheduled to start the football season on Aug. 21.
In another development, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, July 1 at 10 a.m. CST. According to the TSSAA website, several board members have expressed concerns over how to proceed with classification as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The board will discuss whether or not to proceed or delay classification this next school year.
“I don’t know if they are going to wait two years or do it after Christmas,” Fitzgerald said about the reclassification plans.
The TSSAA reclassifies teams based on new enrollment numbers every four years. There has been speculation that the state could drop from six classifications – the same number of classes as Texas – back to five. Where individual teams end up being classified – or even if they simply move to a different region within the same classification – can have a large effect on travel costs and other expenses.
The meeting can be watched on the TSSAA website.
While the July 1 meeting is currently just to talk about reclassification, Fitzgerald said it’s likely the TSSAA will also talk about Lee’s most recent executive order.