The University Interscholastic League reiterated its stance that it hopes to be able to resume all activities before the end of the scheduled school year.
Nearly two-and-half weeks since the UIL suspended those activities — games, competitions, practices, workouts and rehearsals — until at least May 4 came a meeting of the organization's Medical Advisory Committee via videoconference on Sunday.
During the nearly hour-and-a-half meeting that also touched on concussion protocols and physicals for the 2020-21 academic year, the UIL stressed it will try to finish all of the sports that were halted in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Until we have more information about when schools may or may not be in session, it's difficult for us to make any sort of final plans," UIL Deputy Director Dr. Jamey Harrison said. "We do have plans that would allow us to complete all of our state championship activities for this academic year, should that opportunity present itself. We will communicate very quickly with schools what those plans include, what all the various deadlines and otherwise associated with that deadline will be."
While school districts had already been closed for two weeks, last Monday Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he would keep them closed through May 4 — a date the UIL had already imposed as its earliest deadline to return. And while districts are shut down, remote learning has become the norm in order to allow the academic year to be completed.
“This school closure is different than any other school closure we've experienced in the past in that they are really not closed,” Harrison said. “They are physically closed but they are continuing to deliver instructions; kids are still going to school, they're just not at school. They are doing it at home through a variety of remote instruction models.
"I think schools are fulfilling their obligations remotely. The biggest question is whether or not schools will go back during the regular scheduled academic year. I think there's growing skepticism that will happen."
As of mid-Monday, there were 7,246 cases of COVID-19 in the state and 140 deaths. Nationwide that number was up to more than 350,000 cases with the death toll surpassing 10,000.
There have been nearly a dozen states which have already cancelled their spring sport seasons — Alabama, Alaska, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
But the UIL is trying to keep its options open. So is the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which also put a May 4 deadline for a potential return to competition.
On March 13 the UIL initially banned games for a two-week period from March 16-29 and then on March 16 included practices, workouts and use of school facilities to that decree.
“It became evident within just a few days that wasn't going to work,” Harrison said.
So on March 19 the UIL announced everything was being pushed back to May 4, with the caveat that practices could potentially begin before that date. That ruling was altered last week when the UIL said nothing would take place before May 4 — which most likely means a week of practice before games could be held, perhaps using the following Monday, May 11, as a possibility. At the earliest it could mean Friday, May 8.
“What we have committed to....is not starting school back and immediately having sports competition; we will need to have an opportunity to allow students to re-acclimate," Harrison said. "We don't know what those students have been doing in terms of physical activity during this part of the suspended school time. We know we're going to provide an acclimatization period of some sort."
With the new start-up date pushed into May, a complete overhaul of the baseball and softball schedule will be needed — the regular season for softball was originally set to end on April 24 with the playoffs to open the following week while the final baseball games were scheduled to be held on May 1 with that postseason to start the next week.
The boys state basketball tournament was interrupted in the middle of its first day, allowing for only the 1A and 3A semifinals to be played, and the soccer season had already been adjusted in the initial suspension and would have finished before May 4.
There will also need to be additional changes to track, golf and tennis, which had the first parts of their postseason structure pushed back but kept its state competition the same. Finishing as scheduled with those dates is now impossible — the state track meet is slated for May 8-9, the boys state golf tourney for May 11-12 with the girls the following week on May 18-19 and state tennis was set for May 21-22.
The UIL said that because this is a fluid situation it will provide additional announcements as needed and is reassessing things on a daily basis. Further updates can be found on the UIL website and its social media accounts.
“We will continue to stay in touch with the state legislature and the governor, the commissioner of education, all of those various entities that come to bear on decisions about school closure," Harrison said. "We are ready to pivot this way or that, as needed, once we have more information from those agencies.”