It was the right decision.
That’s about the best place to start and maybe the only place to start.
When the University Interscholastic League decided to cancel the reminder of the high school athletic season — ending the year for boys basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track — it was the right decision.
Now it definitely may be an unpopular one, and that’s an opinion which seems to be held by a lot of people out there. Athletes. Coaches. Parents.
But there were only two ways this was going to end. Either play was to resume at some point — the earliest would have been May 4 but the latest could have stretched perhaps to June, maybe even July — or the suspension of activities was going to turn into a cancellation.
It is a difficult time for all of us here in Texas, around the country and around the world. While sports are a big part of all of our lives, they are insignificant in the much bigger picture being painted by this coronavirus pandemic.
Five weeks ago it seemed like this would simply be a small interruption to the schedules. Two weeks away from action, as was the case in 2009 when the country was dealing with swine flu, and then back to your regularly-scheduled district match-ups on Tuesdays and Fridays.
After a week or so it became obvious this was like nothing we had seen before. The two-week suspension quickly turned into seven. The number of cases and deaths both in the state and around the country continue to rise with every passing day.
And once Gov. Greg Abbott said schools would be closed to in-person learning for the rest of the academic year, then the UIL’s hands were officially tied.
If it’s not safe for kids to return to the classroom and be near each other, then how can you hold activities with hundreds of people involved?
The fact is, you can’t. And safety had to be the No. 1 priority in making this decision.
Even if you wanted to hold events without fans, there would still be dozens of people coming in contact with each other. That alone could be enough to help along the spread of the disease. It’s why we had the two-week swine flu shutdown. It came at the beginning of the softball playoffs and the UIL didn’t want groups from different parts of the state meeting in a central location, only to turn around and bring it back to their towns.
Could it have been possible, then, to wait this whole situation out? Of course that might have been an option. The problem involves the length of the wait. How long do you try to give it a go? Through the end of June? Into July? And if we assume it is safe for these activities to resume, what about seniors who are playing at the next level who could hypothetically be enrolled in summer college courses. Because if high schools are good to go in this scenario, wouldn’t colleges be in the same boat?
There is no end in sight as the end of April is approaching. The most recent numbers by the Texas Department of State Health and Services shows that 10 percent of those tested have COVID-19. There are nine spots in the batting order. Would you play against, or with, one player in the lineup who had it — especially if you couldn’t tell? Would you line up for a relay involving as many as 32 runners, knowing any four could be spreading it with every hard inhale and exhale needed to fly around the track? Would you sit in the stands with 1,000 people, knowing the odds are any 100 could be carriers? Would you sit with 100 if there 10 in the group?
It is disappointing on so many levels for so many affected by this decision. There is state champion-caliber talent spread across Grayson County which won’t get a chance to win a first, second or even third state championship. There are seniors who had just a handful of games, matches or tournaments left in their athletic lives and got them snatched away without warning. Then they sat in purgatory for a month before any remaining hope was lost.
Being eliminated in the playoffs is one thing. Going into the last game of the district schedule is something you can prepare for. This was entirely out of the realm of possibility for any of the hundreds of area athletes when their seasons started. Nothing like this has happened in generations and now we’ll wait to see if there’s any impact on volleyball, cross-country and football, which all start their practices during the first week of August. (It’s closer that you think.)
To have everything taken away due to something so far outside your control? The gamut of emotions is probably indescribable.
The UIL was forced into a bad spot. With hundreds of activities scheduled around a very big state, the odds were good that at some point, there would be a game or a meet or a competition where COVID-19 would be spread. There was a chance that someone — or multiple people — could die as a result. And that is not worth any district title, playoff berth or state championship.
It was the right decision. It’s okay if it feels wrong.