MURFREESBORO — TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress has already been hearing it from some fans.
“What COVID-19 guidelines will be in place for fans this fall?”
But that’s about all the clamoring Childress has heard as the autumn sports season approaches and the virus outlook improves.
The TSSAA Board of Control pumped the brakes on making a recommendation about crowd sizes, social distancing or other COVID-19 guidelines for the upcoming school year during its regular meeting Tuesday.
As of now, Childress has no idea what, if any, guidelines the TSSAA will recommend.
“Surprisingly, I haven’t (been asked about it) from any administrators or coaches. I’ve had fans ask those questions,” Childress said. “I think the administrators have been very patient saying, ‘Let’s just see what happens.’”
Schools are already allowed to mandate their own rules about home crowds, but the TSSAA feels member schools will look to it for guidance before any 2021-2022 regular season games are played, Childress said.
The TSSAA can mandate crowds for the playoffs it conducts.
Board members and staff briefly discussed how to approach crowd guidelines, but ultimately agreed to gather more information and make time to meet with Gov. Bill Lee’s staff. The TSSAA has followed state guidelines since the pandemic began.
“That’s why I asked the board (to wait on a recommendation),” Childress said. “We just have to keep following the guidelines. I think Rick (Richard McWhirter) made a great statement saying we don’t want to do anything without us going back to the governor’s team, (saying) we started the protocols with you all, here’s what we’re thinking about changing, are you OK with that? Then we have to go from there.”
Board addresses virtual schools
The TSSAA voted that athletes who choose to attend one of the growing number of virtual schools may transfer their athletic record “to a district-operated virtual school under the existing rules permitting transfers due to a student's reassignment by the school district.”
As an emergency action for 2021-22, the Board of Control will permit those schools to field their own teams, or allow their students to participate in any sport at the student's zoned public school.
The Legislative Council will revisit the action in December to decide whether it should become a permanent bylaw.
There were athletic eligibility questions growing as virtual schools were created to serve students who prefer virtual over in-person learning.
Twelve schools were approved Wednesday: Rutherford County Virtual School; The iLearn Institute at Lenoir City; Collierville Virtual Academy; E.B. Wilson High School; VITAL (Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning); Greene Online Academy of Learning; Johnson City Virtual Academy; WCS (Williamson County Schools) Online; Jackson Academic Steam Academy; Pioneer Virtual Academy; Germantown Online School of Learning; and Roane County Virtual Academy.
TSSAA Network has record year
Understandably, content from the TSSAA Network reached many fans during 2020-21 because of the pandemic. TSSAA-published events on NFHSnetwork.com generated 68,371 users, a 189% year-over-year increase.
There were 195 events broadcast, compared to 164 the prior year.
The BlueCross Bowl Football Championship between Alcoa and Milan set a TSSAA high mark with 2,074 users. Lipscomb Academy vs. CPA was fifth with 1,551 users.
The partnership with NFHS is a media rights agreement including an annual guaranteed rights fee, profit sharing and equity interest in the NFHS Network. Any added dollars are precious this year as the TSSAA braces for what could be a financial loss due to COVID-19.
The governing body doesn’t know what the 2020-21 financial picture looks like yet. It will finalize its books by June 30.
“Our auditors come shortly after that. In August, we’ll have the audit report and it’ll give us exactly what we lost in each sport,” Childress said. “I certainly hope we can go back to a balanced budget next year.”
Digital ticketing will still be available for all state championship games after a successful rollout. It’s a cheaper option for fans. If tickets are bought for an event online and the cost is $12, the cost for a cash ticket at the gate will be $15. … The Smyrna Bowling Center will host the state bowling championships for the next two years. A proposal from the Hendersonville Strike and Spare failed to win over the board. … The Division II wrestling state tournament will occur one week earlier this year. Schools previously waited two weeks between qualifying rounds and the state tournament, but can now avoid an additional wait. There is strong interest from schools to hold the tournament at Montgomery Bell Academy.