TSSA's COVID Leadership Gap
"To lose football would be a devastating financial blow. In order to make our budget, the state has to depend on the revenue from football." - TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress
In Tennessee, the TSSAA lost more than $2 million when the state basketball tournament and annual Spring Fling were cancelled this past spring. If high school football is not played this fall, the losses will be approximately $4 million and that could spell the end of the TSSAA.
Student safety vs adult wallets? It shouldn’t be a debate, but I’d be willing to bet it’s not just a debate at the TSSAA – it’s a fierce battle. The Tennessee Board of Control is meeting with the TSSAA's legal team on Monday to review the situation. And guess what? It’s not open to the public due to attorney-client privilege.
"To lose football would be devastating, I cannot see a scenario where we could survive losing football, plain and simple. It's no secret that you could combine the postseason for every other sport, and it wouldn't add up to what football brings in. There are several other sports where even the championship tournaments actually lose money."
"In order to make our budget, the state has to depend on the revenue from football."
- TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress
Tennessee’s high school administrators are cautiously approaching the upcoming football season. All the same, the cash strapped TSSAA is trying to convince Governor Lee to exempt high school sports from his no-contact order, effectively trying to balance their annual budget. Regardless, an approval by Governor Lee doesn’t mean high school football is going to be played throughout the state. Local school superintendents will have opportunities to voice opinions and apply discretion with consideration to school related health liabilities.
On July 8th, TSSAA's Board of Control delayed a vote to choose between four proposals, with each proposal moving the start of football season to September 18th while reducing the number of playoff games. The vote was delayed with hopes Governor Lee would exempt the TSSAA from his covid-19 emergency order in the same way state colleges and professional teams are exempted.
As of now, Governor Lee has shown an initial interest in not slamming the door shut on football season. On July 13, he provided the TSSAA the following guidelines:
* Practice cannot include activities that result in sustained close proximity or physical contact between participants. Training or otherwise engaging in elements or aspects of the sport in a manner that do not involve close contact with other persons is allowed.
* A football player cannot practice in full pads until the five days of heat acclimatization has been completed. This heat acclimatization process can still begin July 20.
* Drills and simulations in which players are not engaged with an opponent are allowed. For these purposes, an opponent is anyone (teammate or coach) who is engaged with the player with sustained close proximity or physical contact, including contact with a blocking pad or other similar equipment being held by a coach or teammate.
* 7-on-7, scrimmages, and/or practicing with another team are not allowed under the Governor's Executive Order (No. 50/38).
How many student-athletes will take to the field with respiratory infections because the test results haven’t been confirmed yet? It’s common to hear local news report on backlogs for testing – stretching from a few days to a full week. Then the questions arise about testing schedules. If players are tested on Mondays, and are not given results by Friday evening, it would potentially create a situation of spreading the covid-19 virus to players on both rosters.
Those will be the decisions weighing on school superintendents. Let's hope that Bernard Childress and the TSSAA brings more than just their annual budget report to that meeting.