Split vote leaves dead period in place

By Maurice Patton

Following a vote taken by the 12-member Legislative Council during a specially called remote meeting Thursday, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s two-week dead period will remain in place.

After the mid-March dismissal of schools statewide because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the correspondent stoppage of athletic activity, a number of coaches have been of the opinion that a break – after summer workouts have just recently resumed – is now unnecessary after so much preparation time for the 2020-21 season has already been lost.

By a 6-6 roll-call count, though, a motion to suspend the dead period on a one-year basis failed. As a result, no school-related athletic activities can take place between June 22-July 4.

Columbia Academy resumed workouts earlier this week, with Maury County Public Schools set to do so Monday.

“We don’t ever want to put sports before families, and many families make plans for the dead period every year,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “This is not the first year we’ve had the dead period, and as eager as coaches are to get back to their routine, the Council ultimately felt that there wasn’t a strong enough case for doing away with it this year.”

Those voting in favor of suspending the dead period were Council vice president Keith Turner (Science Hill), Rob Speas (Hardin Valley Academy), Autumn O’Bryan (Cleveland), Les Trotter (Waverly), Dexter Williams (West Carroll) and Bo Griffin (Millington). 

Voting against were Greg Wyant (Siegel), Art Crook (Station Camp), Council president Dan Black (Bradford), Kenny Sholl (McCallie), Robert Sain (Middle Tennessee Christian) and Tom Densford (St. George’s).

Historically, the Legislative Council and the Board of Control were each nine-member bodies, with each of the state’s athletic districts represented. Following the establishment of Division II, the bylaws were changed in 2015 to grant independent schools in each Grand Division a representative as well – resulting in 12-member bodies in each case.

“I can maybe count on one hand the number of Board of Control votes that have ended in a tie,” assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said. “I don’t remember any in the Legislative Council. They’ve been few and far between, if at all.”

Interestingly, each of the Council’s three DII representatives voted against suspending the dead period.

“I kinda felt like they’d choose – before I went into the meeting – to eliminate the dead period and use our time off as ‘time served’,” said Trotter, the Council representative from Athletic District 6, which includes Maury County as well as Cheatham, Dickson, Giles, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lawrence, Lewis, Marshall, Perry, Wayne and Williamson counties.

“After listening to Bernard and some of the others, I realized it was going to be a pretty close vote or (they would) choose to keep it intact, and that’s what they did.”

Had the dead period been eliminated, the option of continuing to practice could have been decided by individual school systems, schools or coaches.

“I think the fear is that a coach would put some influence on a kid – ‘you can go on vacation, but when you come back, you’re going to be behind,’ Trotter said. “But each school system is different. You’re dealing with different dynamics. Williamson County kids probably go on more vacations than Maury County kids or Lawrence County kids.

“You ought to trust a coach to make a decision and not be difficult or vindictive.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

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