It was the decision everyone knew was coming but no one wanted to hear.
After twice suspending spring activities over the past five weeks, the University Interscholastic League announced that it has cancelled all remaining spring activities and state championships for the 2019-20 academic year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools also cancelled its spring phase of competition as well.
The announcements came just hours after Gov. Greg Abbott said that all Texas schools will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of this school year. Once that was determined, the UIL essentially had no choice but to end whatever chance there was to resume competition.
“Our staff had been working hard on plans to resume activities this spring, but without schools in session, interscholastic activities cannot continue,” UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said. “Our highest priority during this challenging time is ensuring the health and safety of our students and communities and making progress in the containment of COVID-19 in Texas. We are now turning our attention to the 2020-2021 school year.”
There are 108 days until the start of the 2020-21 high school sports calendar with volleyball and cross-country practices slated to begin on August 3. Football practices are scheduled to start two days later.
Practices, rehearsals, and workouts remain suspended until further notice. The previously communicated information allowing remote instruction remains in place. During statewide school suspension, remote learning and coaching of UIL activities is allowed through electronic, video or teleconferencing type methods. Schools shall limit instruction for UIL activities to a maximum of eight hours per week per activity, in addition to a maximum of sixty minutes per day Monday through Friday. For athletic activities that are out of season, schools shall limit remote instruction to a maximum of sixty minutes per day Monday through Friday. The UIL will continue to follow the direction of state authorities and will work closely with member schools to navigate this unprecedented time.
“I am grateful to the UIL staff for their leadership and dedication to students,” UIL Legislative Council Chair Curtis Rhodes said. “Together we will get through this and we look forward to the day students are once again able to participate in education-based interscholastic activities.”
Because of the ruling, there will be no state champions for the following sports — boys basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field.
It means the Sherman boys soccer team won’t have a playoff match for the second year in a row. It means that the Van Alstyne boys 1,600 relay, which brought back three of the four runners, cannot defend its title. It means the Bells softball team can’t try for a third state championship in four seasons. It means both Pottsboro golf teams can’t make return trips to the state tournament. It means Whitesboro’s Paige Banks and Caleb McCoy can’t go back to the state tennis tourney.
When the suspension was put into place, 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 two matches to go until the start of the playoffs. Baseball and softball were in the early stages of district play — 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.
Golf, tennis and track were in the early part of their seasons to prepare for district competitions. Golf was supposed to have district tournaments completed by April 8 while tennis’ deadline was April 14 and the one for track was by April 11 before the sports continued to postseason meets that would have culminated with state during the month of May.
On March 19, the UIL extended an initial suspension of all activities through May 4. Eventually that date would line up with Abbott’s timeline for a potential reopening of school and set the stage for the two governing bodies to be in lockstep going forward. The UIL's first decision, made on March 13, was to halt action for a two-week period from March 16-29.
The most recent update during the Medical Advisory Committee’s meeting on April 6 showed the UIL reiterating its stance to try to resume all activities before the end of the scheduled school year.
“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 during the meeting. “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.”
A day after that videoconference, the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas were at 7,246 and there were 140 deaths. In the ensuing 11 days, those numbers increased to 169,536 cases with 428 deaths when the UIL cancelled everything. Nationwide on March 17, those totals were more than 700,000 cases and more than 36,000 deaths and rising daily.
The UIL tried to hold off as long as it could. More than a dozen states had already cancelled their spring sport seasons — including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania — before Texas was added to the list.