When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the high school sports world in March, Guyer coach Rodney Webb never imagined the country would still be battling the virus in July.
Instead, Webb’s initial concern was how much time he would have to prepare for spring football practice. But as the weeks went by, and the situation deteriorated, Webb watched as the UIL eventually canceled spring football, along with the rest of spring sports.
Now, with just two weeks left before Class 4A and under schools are scheduled to begin practice on Aug. 3, Webb — who is president of the Texas High School Coaches Association — is grappling with another reality.
If there is a football season this fall, it will look drastically different than everyone is accustomed to.
“I think we’re going to have a season,” Webb said last week. “When it comes to athletics, I can tell you this for sure. The UIL is committed for us have a fall, winter and spring sports season. What it’s going to come down to is what are the modifications going to be? I think it’s unlikely right now that everything is going to be normal. I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to start practice on Aug. 3 and play our first game on Aug. 28.
He was right - on Tuedsay, the UIL has pushed back the start of football and other sports for Class 6A and 5A. The UIL released its updated schedule for Texas high school sports and other activities, and football for the larger schools will get a later start.
Conferences 5A-6A can start football and volleyball practice on September 7. The first day for football games is September 24 and volleyball can start September 14. Football state championships will begin on an unspecified date in January.
5A-6A team tennis and cross county can start matches and meets on September 7.
Conferences 1A-4A, the smaller schools, may begin football and volleyball practice August 3 with an August 27 start date for football and an August 10 start date for volleyball. Football state championships are slated December 16-19. Team tennis and cross country can start matches and meets on August 17.
Last Friday, TAPPS — the governing body for private schools in Texas — announced all fall sports would be pushed back. TAPPS football teams will now play their first games on Sept. 28.
At least the UIL didn’t announce moving football to the spring. One widely circulated rumor on social media has been moving football to the spring and flipping spring sports, like baseball and softball where social distancing can be achieved, to the fall.
But Webb, along with Argyle coach Todd Rodgers, was quick to dismiss this theory.
“The reason being is because the UIL is a governing body for all sports — not just football,” Rodgers said. “They’re going to make decisions for all kids. They’re not going to do anything in their mind to give someone a leg up on another one.”
Webb’s main concern was since the spring sports season was canceled by the UIL in April, it would not be fair to put those same sports at risk for potentially being canceled again in the fall.
Another issue surrounding the upcoming football season is whether or not fans will be allowed in the stands.
The UIL announcement Tuesday will limit fans to 50% capacity in stadiums, and they must wear masks under a previous order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. The governor’s mask order allows local officials to opt out if the county has a low number of COVID-19 cases.
Texas has the highest participation in high school football in the nation with about 170,000 players.