The University Interscholastic League has extended its suspension of all activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, this time providing a much longer timeline for the potential return of high school athletics during the 2019-20 academic year.
After initially banning games for a two-week period from March 16-29 and then including practices, workouts and use of school facilities to that decree, the UIL on Thursday announced that all activities remain suspended until further notice with the earliest possible resumption of games and contests being May 4 — a decision that will put the shutdown of spring seasons across the state to a minimum of six weeks.
This is now far beyond the steps taken when the UIL was forced to shut down all of its activities during the swine flu outbreak in late April of 2009. The decision then was to suspend all competition for two weeks, which altered the first part of the baseball and softball playoffs and eliminated region track meets that forced an extra day to be added to the state meet. The state golf and tennis tournaments were not changed.
Now comes a further blow to having any semblance of a normal-looking finish to the boys basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, track, golf and tennis seasons.
Prior to this May 4 deadline, the UIL will allow schools a reasonable acclimatization period for rehearsals and practices to occur. All decisions remain flexible and will be consistent with the advice of local, state and federal officials.
“We are working diligently on contingency plans to conduct state championships in each of the activities that have been suspended,” UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said. “While the immediate future is unclear, we are committed to providing these much-desired activities to all Texas students and will prepare for all possible outcomes, including extended school closures. ”
Earlier on Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order to close schools, restaurants, and other places to limit social gatherings to 10 people through April 3. Many school districts had already extended their self-imposed closures up to that date with an eye to increasing the length of time away. As of Thursday morning, there had been more than 140 cases of coronavirus found in Texas with three deaths.
“Working together, we must defeat COVID-19 with the only tool that we have available to us — we must strangle its expansion by reducing the ways that we are currently transmitting it,” Abbott said in a press conference. “We are doing this now, today, so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly.”
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, which was to end on Friday, 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 virtually 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.