BY JESSE SMITHEY
For some 90 minutes midday Wednesday, the TSSAA Board of Control focused its efforts on what the high school football and girls’ soccer seasons could look like when/if Governor Bill Lee’s executive order expires Aug. 29.
Lee extended his executive order earlier this week by roughly two months, essentially scrubbing the first two weeks of the high school football season and girls’ soccer season. The order prevented contact sports such as high school football and girls’ soccer from its competitions.
While there was much speculation this week that the board may entertain the notion of flipping the sports calendar and making spring sports — such as baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track — play in the fall, TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress shot that down at the top of the meeting.
Concern that their seasons could be cancelled for a second time in a calendar year wasn’t something the TSSAA wanted to have happen.
“We do have a huge concern and huge responsibility to those spring sports athletes, because they’ve already sacrificed a lot,” said Childress.
Childress and the board also didn’t give much play to The Virginia Plan, which essentially condenses all sports’ seasons with significant overlap. Those would run from mid-December 2020 to the end of June 21.
But The Virginia Plan didn’t make the TSSAA’s cut.
Here are the four options that Childress presented to the Board of Control on Wednesday.
And before you get to those, please understand that golf, volleyball and cross country are still allowed to proceed by the normal TSSAA Sports Calendar, as they are not under the mandate of Gov. Lee’s executive order since they’re non-contact sports.
However, football programs and girls soccer are — when the dead period ends July 5 — are only allowed weightlifting and conditioning through Aug. 29.
“We feel like we mandate all our member schools to abide by the governor’s order,” said Childress.
But should that order keep true and not get extended by Lee, the TSSAA will likely execute one of these options for football and one for girls soccer:
FOOTBALL OPTION A
Football contact practice will begin Aug. 30 and will go for three weeks. The football season would start Sept. 18 and would be a seven-game regular season. The playoffs would start on time (Friday, Nov. 6). The TSSAA would set the region schedules for every school, and football teams would have to scrap their current schedules. Teams that didn’t make playoffs in Option A would get opportunity to play two extra games.
FOOTBALL OPTION B
Football contact practice will begin Aug. 30. The season would start Sept. 18. There would be an eight-game regular season. The first round of the playoffs would be eliminated, and there would be a 16-team bracket. Only region champions and region runners-up would qualify for the playoffs. The TSSAA would set the region schedules for every school. Teams that don’t qualify could schedule for two additional games.
FOOTBALL OPTION C
Football contact practice will begin Aug. 30. First contest would be Sept. 18. The first two weeks of the playoffs would be cut off. Would give teams a nine-game regular season. Only region champions would qualify for the playoffs — which would start in the quarterfinal round. Schools would keep their current schedules for the 2020 season. Teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs could schedule one additional game.
FOOTBALL OPTION D
There’d be no championships in the 2020 season, only a handful of games. Teams could schedule up to an additional five games to finish out their schedules. And that’s it. Childress said not much support has been given to this option but did want to present it.
Extend the season by a couple weeks. The normal starting date is Aug. 17. But girls’ soccer wouldn’t start until September. Extending it a couple weeks from its normal conclusion of late October, Childress said this would still allow for a full postseason and state championship week. However, one BOC member said this extension could conflict with start of club soccer seasons.
“One of these three options (for football) we’re going to have to approve and move forward,” said Childress. “And we’re going to have to do everything we can do for girls’ soccer to have their complete seasons.”
The Board of Control is expected to select their option for football and girls’ soccer on July 8.
However, after all these options were presented, Childress did disclose that he and the TSSAA are in contact with Gov. Lee’s office about including TSSAA sports into the same realm as college and pro sports in regard to the executive order. Should Gov. Lee relent and roll TSSAA sports into the same group as pro and college sports, that would allow for the TSSAA football season and girls’ soccer season to begin on time.
The governor’s office said they’d consider anything the TSSAA set before them but did not give the TSSAA feedback on when that decision from the governor could be given — or any percentage chance it could be approved.
Nevertheless, Childress wants all plans in place by the end of the month but said he understands the situation is fluid and Lee could extend the order further.
“We may have to make adjustments as we go,” he said.
The TSSAA Board of Control was supposed to discuss the classification cycle beginning with the 2021-22 school year back in June. However, Covid-19 pushed the meeting off the calendar.
But given the extensive nature of classification discussions and study sessions, the board noted Wednesday that it wanted to do have those meetings in person. Moreover, the board expressed concerns over getting accurate enrollments totals from this fall, given the uncertainties that Covid-19 has presented to schools across the state about which students will enroll and attend in person or do it virtually.
“I don’t think you can do (classification) on the computer here,” said BOC member Mike Reed.
Classification discussion was tabled Wednesday for a later face-to-face meeting later in July.