MARTIN COUNTY and TEXAS - The return to high school athletic competition in Texas is contingent on school starting, the deputy executive director of the University Interscholastic League said Thursday in a wide-ranging telephone interview.
Dr. Jamey Harrison said the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancellation of spring activities by the organization that governs interscholastic academic, music and athletic contests to public school students was unprecedented in its 110-year history.
While the UIL hopes to be able to resume some sort of normalcy with the fall school semester, nothing is decided and there are no drop-dead dates, Harrison said.
“We don’t have any contingency plans that are finalized because we just don’t have enough information to finalize them,” said Harrison, who has been at his post since 2011. “Everything that comes our way that is in any way credible, we’re trying to make plans to adjust to… Our contingency plans are all factoring in all of those various possible components but right now they’re all possible components. We don’t really have enough information.”
Allowing that the UIL would dictate whether to return to normal activities in the fall semester, San Antonio ISD superintendent Pedro Martinez told the San Antonio Express-News on May 5, 2020, that he doesn’t believe contact sports such as football will be ready to be played during the first semester.
Later in the day, SAISD’s Athletic Director Todd Howey did a short Twitter video telling students the football season had not been canceled.
Input from districts is crucial as the UIL leadership navigates what Harrison called “the hardest decisions any of us have ever had to make.”
Concerns of urban areas, many of which continue to be outbreak “hot-spots,” could be different from those of rural areas, which have potentially lower numbers of positive cases and less known instances of community spread.
Because of these differences, the UIL is in regular contact with the offices of the state commissioner of education and Gov. Greg Abbott as well as in daily contact with school superintendents, athletic directors and head coaches.
“(We’re) giving them information about where we are and … our thought process as we move along, and most importantly, gathering feedback from them,” Harrison said.
UIL activities, postponed March 11 with a potential return after May 4, were completely canceled April 17, when Gov. Abbott ordered that schools remain closed for the remainder of the school year.
Harrison said the UIL had a long list of contingency plans to complete the spring sports seasons but “they were all predicated on some goingback-to-school date. With no return-to-school date, that took those options off the table for us.”
“If we go to school on this day, we’re going to need this much time for students to sort of re-acclimate, make sure they can re-enter competition safely because they’ve been out of workouts so long,” Harrison said. “(If we) Start school on this day, we need this kind of acclimatization period, we can actually start competitions on this day, and that pushes back to the playoffs starting here and state championships there.” culminating