BY JESSE SMITHEY
The build up to Wednesday’s TSSAA Board of Control vote for a potential alternate season structure for 2020 high school football and girls soccer reached its fever pitch Wednesday morning and then fell flat before noon with a resounding thud.
But it still ended with a tinge of optimism.
The meeting, which was set to begin at 11 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, did not go public until 11:22 a.m. as the board worked in executive session.
Once they went live, the TSSAA and its board of control breezed through a couple of household items and then let TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress take the lead.
It was then that Childress encouraged the board — and they followed such encouragement — to delay voting Wednesday on any alternate-season formats or structures for the 2020 high school football season or girls’ soccer season. The TSSAA is still in discussion with Gov. Bill Lee’s office about finding a way to allow for the football and girls’ soccer seasons to begin on time.
“We have had lengthy discussions with the governor’s legal council in the governor’s office,” said Childress.
“Based on our conversations that we’re having, we think that right now it’s best to delay any vote on a contingency plan. The governor’s council stated to us that they needed time to look and watch the data and work with our staff. There will come a time when we have to make a decision on a contingency plan.
“But right now, it’s our opinion that we need to give their legal team the opportunity to see if it’s even needed in girls’ soccer and football. Their legal team is very aware of our sports calendar and when we would normally start. We will continue to work to get an answer as soon as we can from them. We still have some time. And as one of their legal council said to us, ‘Let’s hope for the best, and we need to prepare for the worst.’
“We have the (contingency) plans. It’s not necessary to make that decision today. We need to give them the opportunity to do what they need to do and watch the data.”
It was Lee’s decision and announcement on June 29 last week to extend his executive order two months that basically wiped out the first two weeks of the high school football season and girls’ soccer and sent the TSSAA into scramble mode to try and find a way to still conduct full seasons for each sport. Golf, volleyball and cross country were not affected by the extension of the executive order, as they were deemed non-contact sports.
The contingency option for girls’ soccer was to push its season back two weeks.
The contingency plans the board didn’t vote on Wednesday for high school football looked like this:
Option No. 1: a seven-game regular season, five weeks of playoffs.
Option No. 2: an eight-game regular season, four weeks of playoffs; only region champions and region runners-up would qualify.
Option No. 3: a nine-game regular season, three weeks of playoffs; only region champions qualify for postseason.
Option No. 4: a five-game regular season; no postseason.
Theoretically, choosing and voting on option could have created more chaos with the season had it transpired Wednesday.
Imagine if the board had voted on an option, which would have prompted coaches around the state to begin chopping off games and opponents from their schedules, and then Gov. Lee later decides that high school football and soccer could start on time. Then, there’d be a mad scramble to reschedule games and more frustration would ensue.
That’s why Childress made the statement about the board still having time to decide on a contingency plan, as they await a final verdict from Gov. Lee.
Nevertheless, there remained the public outcry on social media Wednesday as to why the first 22 minutes of the meeting were held privately in executive session.
It made for a bad look for TSSAA, as if there were decisions going on behind closed doors.
But executive sessions are normal protocol.
“We have executive session every time we meet,” said Fulton athletics director and basketball coach Jody Wright, who’s a member of the TSSAA Board of Control. “We have executive sessions at the first of the meetings. Or we have executive sessions at the end of the meeting.
“There’s legal updates that we get and we need to hear. We’re in executive sessions when we hear hardships, due to the sensitive nature of the cases and the privacy nature in dealing with kids.
“But what was hard this time was: most of the time, the general public doesn’t know about executive sessions. But very rarely do we meet when we don’t go into executive sessions.”
5Star Preps reached out to the TSSAA to get more comments from Childress.
“Out of respect for the Governor’s office and our ongoing conversations with them, we will not comment any further at this time,” said TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie.
Childress concluded his remarks at the meeting Wednesday by encouraging all listening to continue to wear masks, social distance and wash hands to provide a positive return of investment, meaning a football and girls’ soccer season.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The TSSAA Board of Control’s classification study session will be July 22 at 1 p.m. at Siegel High School. This pertains to the classification cycle and potential plans for TSSAA member schools for the 2021-22 school year.