While many areas across Texas — especially here in the Rio Grande Valley — are fattening the COVID-19 infection rate curve instead of flattening it, the UIL continues to move forward, even at a snail’s pace, in its attempts to prepare for a high school year with sports.
The governing body of almost all athletic, musical and academic contests for public schools in Texas, recently emailed athletic directors and coaches across the state with its latest plan regarding schools and their athletic programs.
“Schools will be allowed to include limited access to locker rooms and drills that include one or more students on offense versus one or more students on defense beginning July 13,” the email read. “Schools should consider their local conditions and plan carefully for allowing these activities. UIL will be posting updated summer activities information related to this in the coming days.”
Coaches and athletic directors, however, aren’t too confident that they will be able to advance to this level of participation.
Summer strength and conditioning programs have been suspended or canceled at most school districts in the Valley. Edinburg had not even started its program before the threat of COVID-19 led them to suspend summer workouts.
Mission Veterans High School continued, however, with its program, just recently stopping for a two-week period.
Paula Gonzalez, director of athletics for the McAllen Independent School District, said even though UIL is moving forward, she still wants to have a plan in place for her district.
“We’ll meet with the coordinators from each school and come up with a plan and get district approval,” she said. “We’ve talked about football and it’s very difficult to compete without beginning to prepare — in all sports. This shows some progression.
“The biggest concern is the safety, that’s always the priority. More than ever, now it’s a concern with the (infection) numbers rising. But even if the numbers aren’t high, the concern would still be there,” she said.
The UIL also clarified rumors that were spreading as fast as the coronavirus regarding, specifically about an alternate schedule that’s been picking up momentum in the rumor mill fast lane.
First Baptist Academy in Dallas head football coach and head of school Jason Lovvorn recently proposed a schedule to TAPPS — the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools — that basically flip-flopped the school seasons.
According to the proposal, which was also proposed for the UIL but not affiliated with the organization, volleyball would begin practice Feb. 15 and the first matches would be played Feb. 22. The state championship would be May 26-29 for the UIL and May 19-21 for TAPPS.
For football, the first day of practice would be Feb. 15, a scrimmage would take place Feb. 26 and the first games would be held March 5. The state championship for UIL would be June 9-12 and May 19-21 for TAPPS.
Meanwhile tennis, golf, track and field, baseball and softball would all begin practice Aug. 3 and state championships would take place in the middle of November.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the UIL said it would consider unprecedented ideas due to the coronavirus and added that the proposal is picking up steam among Dallas-area coaches.
However, the UIL stated in the email to athletic directors and coaches that, “Additionally, UIL is aware of an alternative athletics calendar that was distributed to some UIL member schools recently. Please know that any information proposing alternatives to the UIL calendar have no affiliation and are not authorized by UIL. Any information from UIL will be handled in the same manner as it has been, with official notification first sent to superintendents and school administrators, and then to the media and general public.”
Gonzalez said she had no opinion either way on the schedule since it wasn’t something UIL had proposed or suggested.
“The planning from the UIL is what aligns your strategy so it wouldn’t be fair to say if this is a great plan or not when it’s really not a plan that UIL is considering. The UIL is looking at so many different options and there are a lot of options. I find it hard to support it if it’s not coming from the UIL.”
Coaches and athletic directors are starting to feel the pressure of where the athletic and academic paths are going.
“The virus makes it so hard to plan because everything is inconsistent and that’s where the fear is,” one athletic director said. “I could have a plan and it could just change; it’s a day-by-day thing, but we have to have an answer soon.”