TSSAA vote cast…Now it’s a wait and see

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, July 23, 2020

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Wednesday was a big day across the State of Tennessee for fall sports soccer and football as the Board of Control of the TSSAA met at Seigel High School to cast their lot on how football will be played should Governor Bill Lee allow his State of Emergency to expire on August 29th.
By the time the dust had settled, the board selected Option 2 of the plan they had presented early but with a twist as it was called an Option 2 Hybrid selection.
According to the board, from the feedback that they had received from school administrators and athletic directors, the plan was the one supported with a higher percentage across the state.
When the vote closed, the count was unanimous in support of the option.
There is still so much uncertainty to what actually will transpire that it’s like walking down the middle of a familiar street in a blinding dust storm not being able to determine which way to turn to get out of the storm.
Executive Director Bernard Childress worked extremely hard to make sure everyone that was present and nearly 2,000 that had joined online that the process has been a hand in hand walk with the Governor’s legal team in regards to which way to go.
And while that may be so, I hate to be a conspiracy theorist but I believe there is more behind the scenes that haven’t been shared to this point – likely the fact that while the TSSAA is trying to put on a game face that there is a high possibility that the governor may extend the State of Emergency another month or so.
Why you may ask do I feel this way?
It’s about the numbers and right now the COVID-19 numbers in our state put us as one of the hotbeds for the virus and even though schools are trying to get opened many are having to extend their start dates further out due to the high numbers being experienced as Carter County is at 19 in the red at the writing of this article.
Also, one can take a look at the headache that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is experiencing right now as daily it seems that conference after conference in collegiate football is making adjustments to their football schedules pushing them more toward the spring.
Not only collegiately but prep programs throughout the country are also handling the dilemma in much the same way.
If Childress is truly focused on his statement yesterday of doing what is best for the student-athletes and coaches, it doesn’t make much sense on how he could allow football to start the first of September.
Also troubling is how contests in the regular season and postseason will be handled should a team contact a pocket of COVID-19 and be forced to quarantine for 14 days.
It was agreed upon that in the regular season if one team was to be forced not to play a game due to such a scenario that the opposing team would be awarded a win for seeding purposes in the playoffs.
If both teams are forced to cancel due to a COVID-19 outbreak, it would be considered a no-contest with neither a win nor loss gained.
However, it changes drastically in the postseason as if a team that qualifies, and in this case either a regional winner or runner-up as option two-hybrid provides for a 16-team playoff field, has an outbreak, they will automatically be disqualified and the opposing team will gain a bye to move the championships forward.
Now mind you, should football have the opportunity to play this eight-game schedule and two teams qualify after having stayed healthy enough to play through trying times and then all of a sudden they contract COVID-19, you are just going to erase them from contention.
I understand the concept but is it truly worth ending a group of seniors season and chance at a state title due to maybe one or two players contracting the illness and because the team has been in contact with these players for the 15-minute time limit to be considered exposed, allow it to simply wipe out their opportunity.
Another moment of the meeting that I was also taken aback to was when someone asked the question, “What happens if the Governor does not lift his order, what happens?”
The response was a chuckle by Childress stating, “I guess we will be back here for another meeting.”
To be a great leader, you have to be able to look at the obstacle in front of you and have not just one plan but even two or three alternate plans should the one you select has a hiccup or has to be adjusted.
All along, my concern for the athletes, coaches, and fans of just not football but other prep sports as well has been the lack of having plans in place for the what-ifs such as this.
There should have been a plan in place by the TSSAA that should the Governor’s order be extended that would allow for other sports to possibly step to the plate that doesn’t require contact so that they can at least have a season still with the unknown of the future.
Yet, there was none offered.
After the meeting, many were calling for a change of leadership going forward.
There was a list of regulations voted on that I am sure will make young athletic directors with dark hair soon see gray appearing in the mirror.
Understandably these were needed for the protection of all but it is going to be challenging to say the least as the board not only included football and fall sports but ALL sports for the 2020-2021 school year.
Some of these included temperature checks and answering health screening questions for everyone – including fans. For sports where attendance can happen, the board suggested a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the current attendance thresholds for the events.
For example, Citizens Bank Stadium can hold 4,000 people combined on the home and visitor side. Under this regulation, there would only be 1,000 to 1,333 people allowed to attend.
Break that down should the ‘Betsy Band play at the games, that subtracts roughly 125 to 150 spots which if one is going on the 1/3 scale, there will be roughly 1,175 people that can enter.
On top of that, how do you decide as an athletic director and school administrator who gets those spots and who gets left outside? There could be an option of showing the game on television for a fee but if I am a loyal season ticket holder for many years and I am told I cannot attend – go figure that one out.
Add to that, seats have to be marked off for social distancing, every fan must wear a mask during the entire event after being temperature checked and screened, and concession stands may or may not be available depending on the school’s decision as TSSAA has recommended no concessions.
As I said, it’s a migraine on the horizon for administration.
Finally, there is the nightmare for coaches and athletic directors to figure out games as the vote included that all region games must be played.
Let’s once again take the Cyclones for an example.
Elizabethton would definitely play South, Greeneville, East, Central, Grainger, and Union County that gives them six region games. That would leave two games.
In the hybrid option, Maryville and William Blount are scheduled to play each other in week one but with the reconfiguration, that would leave them finding a date where they could play.
The TSSAA used Elizabethton in an analogy of this stating that the Cyclones and William Blount are scheduled to play in week seven while Maryville is set to play Fulton in week seven with both being non-region games.
Their plan with the hybrid option would be to match Maryville and William Blount up in week seven and give the Cyclones and Fulton the option of playing each other, finding another team, or taking a bye week.
The last part is completely dumb because these teams have already lost two games in the season so who would want to take a bye.
Would it open the door for the Cyclones to maybe pick up a Boone which is always a big rivalry game and would have a better gate should the Trailblazers be available.
Should the Cyclones agree to play Fulton with the understanding that Fulton would be the road team because this year William Blount was scheduled to come to Citizens Bank?
What if, what if, what if…I assume you are getting the picture. It’s still going to be a headache.
But I also realize at this point that the athletes are tired of conditioning and weight lifting and they want to get into the heat of the action. I understand also that fans want to be there to watch – especially the Cyclones who are defending 4A State Champs.
I get everything from both sides but still, the answer could be better found by throwing a stack of cards into the air and catching one on the way down because you don’t know what you are going to get.
I am a Sports Editor and I love athletics just like the next but right now the plan is skewed and no one holds the answer. Football or no football. Soccer or no soccer. Fall sports or no fall sports. Winter and Spring – who knows?
I compare it to being a blind man on a five-acre island trying to find the materials piece by piece to build a rescue raft. I want it but am I realistically going to be able to have it.
If you know the answer, please feel free to share it.
Once again, this is an opinion column and one can agree to disagree. We are all in this together.

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