Months into the COVID-19 health crisis and it seems like Texas is back to square one, if not, in an even worse position.
Summer workouts for high schools around Texas are in some state of going on as planned or stopped for the next week as cases continue to mount in different areas.
One big question still lingers. What’s next?
The UIL hasn’t canceled anything in the upcoming athletic calendar year, but they also haven’t said everything will continue as planned.
The UIL has a period of no activity for two days next week. They are also encouraging ISDs to pause for the next week and return on July 13. While it’s not mandatory, El Campo and Rice Consolidated will close for the whole week. When athletes hit the field on July 13, they’ll have two final weeks before August.
While schools are able to work with their students under a set of rules from the UIL, it’s been a balancing act. With schools trying to prepare for an upcoming season and enforcing social distancing.
“Right now it’s difficult, but you’re able to get things done.You’re able to lift weights, run and work on skill stuff.” El Campo Athletic Director Wayne Condra said. “It makes things tough in the sense that you have to stay apart if you’re working on scheme’s when working on offense and defense. You’ve got to keep distance.”
In a normal year, August is the real start to athletics with volleyball playing games and football starting two-a-days.
However, before that starts, tons of questions still haven’t been answered.
TO BE KNOWN
Will fans be allowed in the stands?
Will coaches, officials, and players not on the field be required to wear masks?
Will everyone involved with a football game from players to coaches to fans to stadium workers have to have their temperature taken?
In no fans are allowed, will there be a band?
If fans are allowed in, will there be social distancing mandates?
If a student or coach tests positive during the season or in the playoffs, will that team forfeit games or have it end their playoff run?
COULD LOOK LIKE
Likely these questions and tons of others are being thought out by the UIL. Currently, with the rise in cases throughout Texas, the governor has ordered mass gatherings to 100 people or less to be approved by local governments.
Maybe Wharton County doesn’t mind having a gathering of 100 people, but what about Brazoria County when El Campo travels to play Brazosport?
One suggestion has been to switch spring and fall sports. The theory is it would push the massive sidelines that a football team has into 2021.
It’s projected there could be a vaccine around that time frame, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the U.S. Congress recently. While that could be an interesting solution, according to Matt Stepp of the Texas Football magazine, the UIL has no plans on flipping the calendar.
If it did happen, instead of working a whole summer towards football, coaches, wouldn’t be able to get students until after baseball season. Schedules that would have to be re-worked on the fly. With just under a month left before school starting, it seems highly unlikely a massive change would happen.
If the UIL is holding out on guidance to see how other professional sports leagues handle reopening, it’s one waiting game after another.
The NFL has no plans on pushing back the season, but they also canceled rookie minicamps and have shorted the preseason by two games, per reports.
The NBA will try to restart their season at the end of the month inside of a bubble system set up in Orlando, Florida (once players enter they won’t be allowed to leave until their season is over with). However, the NBA commissioner hasn’t committed that the season will finish.
The UFC which has the most contact, albeit one-on-one, has pushed forward. Even holding an event after they learned of a fighter testing positive the day of a fight. While that fighter didn’t fight, they pressed on. At UFC events, all but the fighters must wear facemasks. Fights go on with no fans. The UFC will even host fights on their own private island to skirt COVID-19 restrictions.
Overseas soccer has been going on for the past month, all without fans. In Italy, which has the fourth most deaths worldwide from COVID-19, they are playing soccer. If a player contracts the virus, only that person is subject to a quarantine, not the entire team.
If sports come back, the only model that would make sense is the Italian model, no fans and a “soft” quarantine - what the Italian government calls it.
High school baseball and softball in Iowa resumed last month with fans. While sports are continuing teams there have been forced to pause or cancel games due to players testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with it. The numbers in Iowa are significantly lower with 29k cases compared to Texas with 175k. Iowa’s Governor has also allowed the atheltes of schools who decided not to open to play for neighboring districts this year only.
In Texas, the question of what happens for a positive test during a sports season hasn’t been answered. During summer workouts it’s a two-week pause for a positive test. If it was the playoffs and you were the reason your team didn’t advance, that would be pretty tough to hang on a star running back or a fourth string linebacker or even a coach.
For the six teams in the Wharton County sports coverage zone, no student or coach was tested positive for the virus, yet. However teams, just outside have like Bay City, Sealy and West Columbia to name a few.
While COVID-19 is still present and doesn’t seem to be going away, the hope is the high school football tradition will continue.
“We’re planning on practicing on August 3rd and we’ve not been told anything different,” Condra said.