The University Interscholastic League (UIL) announced changes to the fall semester in both Class 5A and 6A as many school districts across the state have opted for virtual learning for the start of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The modifications will take effect on Aug. 1, providing relief to schools that are in counties impacted by the rising COVID-19 cases. Class 1A-4A will have the opportunity to start their seasons on schedule. The UIL also left the door open for more modifications in the future.

"Acknowledging the situation is not always clear-cut and that COVID-19 affects every community differently, the plan also allows for local flexibility and encourages districts to plan for possible interruptions in order to complete district seasons," wrote the UIL in a release today.

The announcement will mandate pushing back the start of football practices to Sept. 7 with a start date of Sept. 24. Volleyball, cross country and team tennis will also start practices in September. Volleyball begins practice on Sept. 7, with its first set of games on Sept. 14. Cross Country can start holding meets on Sept. 14, along with team tennis allowing matches on the same date as well.

The state championships for both tennis and cross country will take place as scheduled. Volleyball will start the Class 5A and 6A state tournament on Dec. 11.

Football's Class 5A and 6A state championship will be moved to Jan. 2021, with a schedule TBD.

“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread.”

The UIL continues in its release from today:

"With the understanding that not all schools will be able to start at the same time, this plan allows for schools to make playing decisions at the local level, and the UIL will work directly with schools that have scheduling issues not addressed in this plan to allow them flexibility to complete as many contests as possible," wrote the UIL in a statement. 

The situation is fluid and in its infancy. The hope and goal is to play some form of high school sports in the fall while also giving local communities and school districts the ability to cancel or postpone games if need be. UIL is working with state officials and will modify the schedule accordingly.

There was a growing concern regarding returning to campus among local communities as cases started to surge in Texas over the last few weeks. The UIL allowed schools to start up voluntary workouts but many districts, including all El Paso schools, shut down their summer programs out of precaution.

Now another factor of scheduling games comes into the forefront. There's also no guarantee that Class 1A-4A will start on time. Each district is going to have to make changes to their schedule to modify the new schedule and games might have to be canceled altogether.

For a local example, Riverside (4A) is scheduled to play El Paso High (5A) on Aug. 28, Ysleta (5A) on Sept. 11 and Horizon (5A) on Sept. 18. The way the current local ordinance stands and in respect to the UIL's new schedule, Riverside wouldn't be able to play until Sept. 25
against Monahans with a six-game schedule instead of 10. San Elizario (4A) also plays a trio of 5A programs in Jefferson (Sept. 4), Irvin (Sept. 11) and Bel Air (Sept. 18).

Also buried in the UIL's COVID-19 risk and mitigation guidelines, schools can allow a maximum capacity of 50% attendance for games:

"Schools may allow spectators to attend games, contests, or events within a maximum 50% capacity limitation, provided that appropriate spacing between spectators is maintained according to the protocol..." 

On Monday, California high schools ruled out playing any high school sports in the fall and pushed it to a December/January start. New Mexico moved all of its sports to the spring semester too. Texas becomes the latest state to follow suit.

Update from 5:03 PM 

Basketball in Texas will have a limited 27-regular season schedule. In accordance with this, there will not be any tournaments or showcases, including regional tournaments. There will be two scrimmages allowed for the upcoming season as well.