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TSSAA undecided on football season, considering delayed start

TSSAA is considering multiple options concerning play for football season and other fall sports. Canceling regular season home games will be a last resort.

TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress estimates a $1.1 million loss for the organization after canceling the state basketball tournaments and spring sporting events. It is a significant loss, but Childress says the loss of football season would be devastating.

“In so many ways, it would be devastating to the organization to lose a football season,” Childress said.

Here’s one way: The TSSAA takes 25 percent of the revenue made during the football playoffs to pay for catastrophic events insurance for each player. The organization would have to dig into the reserved funding to fulfill that payment, if the season is canceled.  

A lost football season also financially affects the 400-plus member schools that make up the TSSAA. Schools use a portion of the money gained from home football games to fund the non-revenue sports like golf, tennis and cross country.

Fulton High School in Knoxville designates money made from their concession stands at football and basketball games to help pay for their non-revenue sports.

“No football, no concession revenue,” Fulton High School athletic director Jody Wright said. “No concession revenue means that’s a big cut of the pie that those sports are funding.”

Wright also added that the high school’s band leans on the concession stand to make its revenue.

“You can see all the tentacles that we’re talking about, as far as a football game and the different areas that are funded,” Wright said.

Both Childress and Wright said this is a fluid situation and no decision has been made about football season. However, canceling home regular season football games will be the last resort for the TSSAA.

Delaying the start of the fall sports season and eliminating a round of football playoffs are a couple options that are under consideration. A later start date comes with increased obstacles such as practice times for fall sports teams, neutral-site availability for championship games and weather. There is also the obstacle of overlap with the winter sports schedules.

“We’re not like the NCAA where football players play football,” Childress said.

For now, the TSSAA will continue seeking the guidance of doctors who specialize in infectious diseases and the CDC.

“We’re going to go simply by what they say and make recommendations to our schools based on what our scientists are saying, because that’s the safe thing to do,” Childress said.