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Editor’s note: After this article was sent to press, UIL announced they had extended its suspension of all UIL athletic events until Monday, May 4.
High school athletics a Coronavirus victim
It was a decision that sent shock waves across the Lone Star state. Last Friday, the UIL (University Interscholastic League) announced that effective Monday, March 16 it was “suspending all UIL sanctioned contests, rehearsals, practices and workouts due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Texas through March 29.” And that it was doing so “to support the health and safety of our students and communities.”
With the NBA (National Basketball Association) and other professional and collegiate leagues, tournaments and competitions having suspended their seasons and/or events earlier in the week, it was no huge surprise that the UIL would soon follow with a suspension of its own. But with high school soccer teams winding down their regular seasons, softball and baseball teams only a few games into theirs, and the sports of track, golf and tennis at different points in their seasons, fans and coaches of these teams, as well as the participants and their parents, were holding on to a glimmer of hope that some way, somehow, their sport of choice would be allowed to play on.
As we all know by now, however, that was not to be.
So what’s next? Will the UIL allow a resumption of these sports’ seasons in time to give participating teams the opportunity to complete their seasons all the way through the playoffs? Or will high school soccer pitches and softball and baseball diamonds across the state of Texas remain dark and isolated until next school year? While the former seems very unlikely at this point in time, nobody really knows what lies ahead for high school sports teams, coaches and athletes as a result of this sudden and unprecedented stoppage of play.
So what’s the big deal? With the pandemic that our nation is in the grips of at this time growing in size and scope with each passing day, does it really matter if high school sports teams are allowed to play on or not? With hundreds, and possibly thousands of American lives at stake as a result of this killer virus, those are fair questions to ask. And while tens of thousands of high school athletes across the state are heartbroken over the suspensions, and possible cancellations, of their respective seasons, I for one am in no way being critical of the UIL’s decision to take fast and decisive action. That’s because I believe that as the state’s governing body that according to its own website “exists to provide educational extracurricular academic, athletic, and music contests,” the UIL did what had to be done in the best interest of public health and safety.
And as the long time Sharyland ISD’s athletic director, Richard “Dickie” Thompson, shared after Friday night’s softball game between the Sharyland Lady Rattlers and the Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks, “They (the UIL) are just trying to be precautious and make sure that all of our student athletes are taken care of. Plus you know people travel to our games so they don’t want to have a lot of people at our large venues. I think it was a smart thing to do. And we’ll see where this thing goes in the next week or two.”
When asked if to the best of his knowledge, this state-wide suspension of all UIL activities is unprecedented, Thompson said, “I don’t remember anything like this occurring before over the last 40 years. It’s something I don’t think anybody has experienced before.”
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to play the playoffs in soccer, but it won’t be in the next two weeks,” added Thompson. “But hopefully at some point we can play them off. I’m just glad that we finished our district schedule tonight. So we’ll go from there.”
As a longtime coach and athletic director, Thompson has a long history of dealing with the UIL. While it is highly doubtful that he has agreed with every decision and/or ruling this governing body has made over his 40+ year coaching career, he has the utmost confidence in its handling of this situation in a way that will allow the student athletes to play on, if at all possible.
“Then of course you’ve got softball and baseball and track and golf and tennis still going so a lot of things are going on,” Thompson said. “But I know the UIL and they do a great job of scheduling and making adjustments so that our kids can participate. But we just have to sit back and see where we’re going in the next couple of weeks.”
So when will we know for sure if your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild or family friend will be allowed to play on or not? There are too many unknowns at this time to say for sure. However, these quotes taken from the UIL’s website assures us of the fact that it (the UIL) is working on finding a resolution that will allow the high school athletes across the state whose seasons have been suddenly halted to play on while keeping those same athletes, as well as their families and fans, as safe as possible.
“We are urging our member schools and their communities to stay vigilant and take every possible precaution to remain safe and healthy,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “We understand there is a lot of uncertainty during this unprecedented time. Please know UIL leadership is working diligently to adjust to this rapidly evolving situation and will share updates as soon as possible.”
“As this is a fluid situation, the UIL will continue to follow the direction of state and local officials to monitor this situation and will make additional announcements as needed.”