UIL Mulls Over Summer Return, Fall Sports Amid Uncertainty
As the summer draws near, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) continues to work on contingency plans on whether school sports will resume this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.
The truth is, no one knows what the next three months will hold.
Last week, UIL Executive Director Jamey Harrison said in a telephone interview that they hope to resume in the fall school semester but nothing is set in stone and there are no "drop-dead" dates.
"We don't have any contingency plans that are finalized because we just don't have enough information to finalize them," Harrison told reporters. "Everything that comes our way that is in any way credible, we're trying to make plans to adjust to. Our contingency plans are all factoring in all of those various possible components but right now they're all possible components. We don't really have enough information."
But there are still some districts that are pessimistic on any sort of return. San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez told the San Antonio Express-News on May 5, 2020 that he doesn't believe contact sports like football would be played in the fall.
The truth hurts, but in reality, no one knows which way the UIL will go.
The decision could be made for the UIL by higher representatives. UIL activities were suspended indefinitely on March 11, with the potential to return in May, until Gov. Abbot ordered that schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year. And if the UIL has to decide, they will weigh out options ranging from football and volleyball to fine arts performances.
Could each district govern their own athletics based on local-level laws surrounding the coronavirus pandemic? Some urban cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin and El Paso continue to be affected by the pandemic but they can be far more different than rural towns that might have a lower number of positive cases and less community spread.
If UIL activities are allowed to return for fall competition, will coaches and players have ample time to get physically ready for the season? Both football and volleyball kick off in August. Pushing back the start of sports could be a no-brainer. In football specifically, coaches might need more time to get their teams in the physical condition needed to play in such a high-contact sport. Not to mention the x's and o's side of things—when could coaches get time to spend with players in order to instill their gameplan?
Among the worst "what-if" scenarios comes a doom-and-gloom question: if sports return in the fall, what would happen if another wave of the coronavirus comes in the winter?
UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said "We are both making plans for the regular start of school and our activities and then if there is a delayed start what we might do. We're also planning for what might happen if we start and have to stop again. If that does happen our staff is up to the task. Our plans are focused on the 2020-2021 season."
UIL representatives have also stated that any sort of sports resuming will fall in line with the decisions professional and college sports organizations make. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Facui, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ESPN "the virus will make the decision for us" on whether sports can return.
In reality, the UIL is a mirror image of how most sports organizations are operating during this pandemic. There is a ton of uncertainty and not a lot of clarity. As most sports organizations, we will continue to monitor this as a wait-and-see approach until sports are able to return safely.