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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
The pads come on Monday, for better or worse.
Something to consider as you sit in your air-conditioned homes: the majority of high school football teams in Tennessee will play three games in August this year, or about a third of their regular season.
That's too many.
At a time when the TSSAA has instituted strict heat policies with extra water breaks or halting practice if the heat index gets over 105 degrees, the same high school association has approved a sports calendar that includes three football games in the hottest month of the year this season.
It's the second time in six years teams will play three games in August.
Makes sense? Not at all.
It's time for it to stop for the health of Tennessee's high school athlete.
"The fact that there are three games in August is ridiculous," said Christian Brothers football coach Thomas McDaniel, who is the president of the Tennessee Football Coaches Association. "We are so worried about the heat and acclimation and heat index rules.
"It's almost an impossible feat to be ready for the season."
Forget about being ready for a season. I'm worried about safety. I'm worried about seeing reports of heat-related illness.
And as a parent of a son planning to start playing football this season for a recreational league, the thought of having to call another parent about their child that died due to the heat is something that scares me.
The health of our high school athletes must return to the forefront of discussion.
"I was just thinking about this," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "This time of year a lot of us get stressed out and busy because of school starting.
"Majority of our stress, though, comes from heat and worrying about the athletes."
Why do we have three games in August
The TSSAA sets its calendar differently than the way many may think.
The association doesn't start with the first day of practice and works its way to the championship games. It turns the calendar to December where the state championships are held on the first weekend of the month and works its way back to the start of the season.
"We see when we have the state championships and count back from there," Childress said. "If we move it back in December the Council has to consider a lot of things like exams and schools getting out for break.
"And we are always concerned with overlap (in fall and winter sports)."
Typically, Tennessee has two games in August. The last time teams played three games were in 2012.
"I don't think this is good business for our young people," Brentwood coach Ron Crawford said. "I think all of us as coaches understand now how to take care of players much, much better."
Here in the South, Alabama, Louisville and Florida all start their high school football seasons later than Tennessee.
Alabama begins Aug. 24. Florida opens the season Aug. 22. Louisiana's first games are Aug. 30.
Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi all start Aug. 17 like in Tennessee.
How do you change it
Childress said it would be up to the organization's Legislative Council to change the start of the high school football season.
Typically, school administrators submit proposals for the council to consider. The TSSAA staff also can make recommendations.
The next step likely would be for the Legislative Council to poll all member schools, asking for a vote.
"If enough coaches in coaches meetings have a strong opinion, we could write a recommendation as a staff," Childress said. "But the way they normally operate is they let everyone vote for any change in the calendar."
Crawford suggested simply pushing the first week of games back one week. This year that equates to two games played in August, but most years there would be just one.
Independence coach Scott Blade suggested an even drastic change.
"I don't think we should play until September," Blade said. "I think there are too many teams in the championships. I think we should play 14 games at the most, so a 16-team bracket and start the first week of September.
"That's my own personal opinion. But we are out there right now with these kids and we should be doing 7-on-7; we should be going to the pool. But instead, we are (about to start scrimmaging).
"We are playing three games in the South."
Reach Tom Kreager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.
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