Beech and Hillsboro football players collide during a game on Oct. 4, 2019. Close contact sports are currently on hold until at least Aug. 29.

High school football season will be delayed in Tennessee – if it happens at all in 2020.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s state of emergency declaration through at least Aug. 29. The order includes the limitation of contact sports “with a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine close contact” and prevents most gatherings of 50 or more people.  

While the order does not apply to college or professional sports, there was no caveat for prep sports. TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress released a statement Tuesday in response to the extension.

“While the Governor’s order is in place, member schools cannot have any competition or scrimmage with other schools and cannot have close contact activities during their fundamental practice in the sports of football, 7-on-7 football, girls soccer, wrestling and basketball,” he said.

Girls soccer and football were both slated to begin their regular seasons the week of Aug. 17. But since contact sports are not allowed until at least the end of August, Childress said that timeline will not work.

Non-contact fall sports like cross country, golf and volleyball were not mentioned. Their seasons could still start on time depending on what the TSSAA Board of Control opts to do with the sports calendar.

“We are in the process of developing regular season and postseason options to present to the TSSAA Board of Control for their consideration,” Childress said. “The Board will ultimately make the decision as to how this will impact the postseason and if any adjustments can be made to regular season competition.”

TSSAA schools are currently in the second week of the annual summer dead period, which bars coaches and athletes from participating in games or workouts on school property. Preseason football workouts were set to resume on July 6 and padded practices could start as soon as July 27.

Districts throughout the state began socially distanced conditioning drills in June with hope that contact restrictions would be lifted in July. Events involving more than one team like 7-on-7 passing leagues and soccer scrimmages will not be allowed under the current mandate, but schools may be able to continue preseason workouts in some form.

Football teams typically spend 3-4 weeks in padded practices before playing their first games. That means the regular season could be shortened or pushed to September or October.

Other states are grappling with the same issue. One model proposed in Virginia moves all sports back until December, with winter sports held from Dec. 13 to Feb. 20, fall sports from Feb. 15 to May 1 and spring sports from April 12 to June 26.

More clarity could be coming as soon as Wednesday morning. The TSSAA Board of Control is set for a called meeting to talk classification at 10 a.m., but the issue of when sports can be played is also expected to be discussed.

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