Start of prep football season could be in jeopardy due to extension of coronavirus state of emergency declarations

Photo by Cade Deakin/ McMinnճ Jalen Hunt (17) runs the ball during the first half. The McMinn County Cherokees visited the Ooltewah Owls in TSSAA football action on September 13, 2019.

The first real blow to having the high school football season kick off on time in Tennessee and Georgia was dealt Monday.

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the South, Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee's state of emergency declaration until Aug. 29. Hours later, Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia's state of emergency until Aug. 11.

That likely will push back the time frame for when prep football teams can begin holding contact drills or practicing in pads, which would also move the start of the season back.

TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said late Monday evening that his staff was meeting to discuss a plan and would likely release a statement Tuesday.

TSSAA member schools are currently in the final week of the two-week dead period, during which athletes are not allowed to work out or train with coaches or on school property. Beginning Monday, July 6, prep football teams were set to resume preseason workouts, with July 27 to be the first day they were allowed to begin practicing in full pads.

Scrimmages and jamborees would follow in mid-August, and the season was set to kick off Aug. 21.

However, under Gov. Lee's recommendation, not only are Tennesseans encouraged to wear face masks and continue social distancing, but recreational gatherings are limited to 50 people and he stated to limit sports that have "a substantial likelihood of routine close contact."

That means football teams would be allowed to conduct noncontact practices, similar to what they were doing in June prior to the two-week dead period, but cannot begin allowing contact until Aug. 29 at the earliest.

"I really thought things were headed in the right direction, so this caught me by surprise today when I saw the governor's announcement," East Hamilton football coach Grant Reynolds said. "It looks like the season is going to be delayed. That's frustrating, but I understand where he's coming from and what his reasons are. I do wish the TSSAA had taken the lead at the beginning of the summer to put everybody on equal footing as far as what is allowed at practice. Maybe now the will take the lead to give us a definite timeline for when we can expect to have the season."

The order does not include college or professional football in the state as of now.

At least two weeks of practice in pads, including scrimmages, is normally what is needed to prepare players for the season.

Other fall sports such as cross country, volleyball, golf and girls' soccer are not as likely to be affected due to their limited physical contact between athletes.

The TSSAA had already planned a Board of Control meeting for Wednesday to discuss classification for the 2021 school year.

In the Peach State, the Georgia High School Association has been given full authority to allow member schools to decide what to allow when it comes to athletic practices. Like Tennessee, Georgia is in a dead-week period that was scheduled to end Sunday.

One proposal that has been sent to the TSSAA calls for the state's athletic calendar to swap, moving football season to spring 2021 and swapping baseball, boys' soccer, softball, track and field and tennis - sports that have previously been played in the spring - to begin in the fall semester with the reasoning that there is not as much close contact between athletes and because those sports typically do not draw the large crowds that football does.

A similar proposal is already on the agenda for the high school athletic association in Mississippi to discuss this week.

Contact Stephen Hargis at or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.