Tennessee high school football will start on time

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued an Executive Order that will allow fall contact sports to resume, meaning the TSSAA football season will begin on time Week One on Aug. 21.

"We appreciate being able to work with Gov. Lee and his staff on this,” said Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the TSSAA. “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.”

Teams across the state are expected to begin full-contact practice Wednesday if they've already completed the heat acclimation period. All Rutherford County teams did so last week.

"As soon as the governor signs the order, football teams have the approval of the TSSAA to begin practicing with full contact," said TSSAA Assistant Executive Director Matt Gillespie. "(Lee) tweeted out that he issued the order today, so it will be pretty quick. With this order, the season will start on time and the schedules won't be affected. The key is it exempts us from the contact sports restrictions, but (schools) still must adhere to the modifications the (TSSAA Board of Control) passed."

Those COVID-19 sports regulations include:

1. Temperature checks are required for all coaches, players and team personnel prior to every practice. Anyone whose temperature measures 100.4 or greater must be sent home immediately and may not return to participation until he/she provides documentation that they have tested negative for COVID-19 or obtained a medical evaluation by a physician verifying that COVID-19 is not the cause of his/her fever.

2. No coach, player, or team personnel may participate in practice or a contest without first completing appropriate COVID-19 screening. Persons should not participate while ill. If the answer is “YES” to any of the following questions, the coach, player, or team personnel may not participate until obtaining an evaluation by a medical provider verifying

3. No scrimmages, jamborees, 7-on-7 practice, or other types of practice with other teams is permitted. 

4. At contests all coaches, players, team personnel, officials, administrators, and fans must have their temperatures checked before entering the facility. No one whose temperature measures 100.4 or greater may be admitted. 

5. At each contest the following symptom checklist shall be posted prominently at the spectator entrance(s) instructing that anyone who is experiencing any of these symptoms during the preceding 7 days must not be admitted: Fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, shaking chills, chest pain, pressure of tightness with exercise, fatigue or difficulty with exercise, racing heart rate, unusual dizziness, loss of taste of smell, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, unusual rash or painful discoloration of fingers or toes.

6. At contests in localities where fan attendance is permitted, member schools are encouraged to limit fan attendance to a number that will allow adequate social distancing (e.g., one-fourth to one-third of typical seating capacity, depending on the characteristics of the particular venue) and should mark/designate bleachers or seats in order to promote social distancing among spectators

7. Member schools will require that all fans wear facial coverings at all times while onsite (except children under age 2) and maintain social distancing (6 feet, or the equivalent of two empty seats between themselves and other fans) from anyone other than those living in the same household.

8. The temperature check and questionnaire requirements of Items 1 and 2 above, as well as the social distancing requirement of Item 7, shall also apply to members of a school band or pep band, cheerleaders or other similar student groups attending a contest in a supporting role

9. If a public address system is in use for a contest, the host school will make public service announcements at various times during the contest to remind those in attendance to use masks and maintain physical distancing.

10. The host school is responsible for providing staff to engage in frequent cleaning and sanitizing of restroom facilities during contests.

11. Concession stands are discouraged because they tend to invite gatherings of people in close quarters. If a member school chooses to operate a concession stand at a contest, signage or other appropriate markings must be in place to encourage customers to maintain physical distancing while standing in line.

12. All coaches must complete the free NFHS online course “COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators,” before the first contest (preferably as soon as possible).

"It's a real surprise but a good surprise, and it's going to be good to meet with the kids to let them know what's going on," Riverdale coach Will Kriesky said. "We have something to look forward to, and the seniors know they have the opportunity to play one more season of football.

"I'm just excited we get to play football. Right now, I'm OK with any of the rules that need to be enforced. It's the time we're in. We have to adjust and adapt."

Oakland coach Kevin Creasy said he, too, was surprised at the governor's executive order.

"I was surprised by the news, but real happy by the news," he said. "It will be awesome that our season will start on time. We were hoping for a jamboree and what a game would look like and get a trial run, but that's fine.  We've done our part to keep our team state, and we will go by all of the regulations we need to."

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