Shockwaves created by the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt within the college football landscape.
The Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to cancel fall sports on Saturday. Division II’s Lone Star Conference — composed of mostly small Texas universities — postponed football to the spring last Friday. Then on Monday, according to Stadium, the Mountain West Conference postponed its football season in hope to play it in the spring.
With the dominoes that have already fallen at the collegiate level, it raises the question as to how Texas high school fall sports can occur if major universities won’t allow their fall athletics to happen.
“It’s tough,” Alexander head football coach Sergio Salinas said. “Obviously, people have to make decisions to keep people safe. At the end of the day, that’s what I think the decisions come down to.
Photo: Danny Zaragoza /Laredo Morning Times File
“It’s hard in terms of them canceling it straight out or pushing it to the spring. For us, right now, I’m hoping the UIL pushes football to the spring to give us a chance and some hope. If the UIL does keep the start as it is, which is September 7, it would put us in a little bit of bind because locally our cases are not good right now. It probably wouldn’t be smart for us to start practice on that date. With them pushing the start date back, it would give us a little bit of a chance.”
City of Laredo and Webb County officials confirmed 374 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, passing the 8,000-case mark in the process. The new positives set a record high of cases confirmed in a single day in the city.
The first University Interscholastic League high school volleyball games in the state could start Monday. Schools in classifications 1A-4A are 17 days away from being able to play their first football games.
Currently, Laredo ISD and United ISD plan to partake in fall athletics this year. However, LISD won’t take the field until late September while UISD won’t begin competition until mid-October. And while both school districts plan to have fall sports, there have been talks about potentially canceling them — at least among LISD leaders.
Although both public school districts here in Laredo still plan for fall athletics, Texas saw its first UIL school to cancel its volleyball and football seasons Monday.
Ben Bolt — a 2A school about an hour drive west of Corpus Christi — won’t be participating in either sport this year, according to The Corpus Christi Caller Times. The Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD school board voted last Monday to allow virtual instruction for the first nine weeks of school, which meant no extracurricular activities during that time.
Ben Bolt athletic director Gary Cunningham told The Caller Times that the timeline for a return to class and practice gave the football and volleyball programs a start date of November, which made the seasons impossible.
“We are in a position right now where our leadership has a very difficult decision in front of them,” Martin head football coach David Charles said. “There is going to be consequences no matter what decision you make. I do know that the leadership we have here at LISD, will be making the best decision for our community and the safety of the kids, the coaches and everyone involved.”
Last Friday, the UIL’s Medical Advisory Committee stated that students who test positive for COVID-19 must be cleared by a physician before they can return to athletics. That was the only return-to-play protocol the committee passed. As for other aspects of competing in high school sports during the pandemic, the committee recommended following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines. How school districts choose to respond to positive cases will be up to them.
Although the UIL plans to move forward with fall athletics, some of the committee members did raise worries about how high school sports could continue if positive cases occur if professional leagues are having a tough time continuing when their teams encounter positive tests.
“I think it’s going to be really difficult to even have high school sports or school sports if the pro sports are having a tough time continuing to play with positive patients,” said Dr. Arnold Fenrich, a pediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist from Austin. “They have unlimited resources and medical personnel to evaluate and treat their players who get COVID tests daily. I can’t imagine how that would work in schools when kids may go days before they realize they have COVID-19.”
According to The Dallas Morning News’ Greg Riddle, the UIL would not comment on whether its fall athletics plans would change if Power 5 conferences such as Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC voted to play this fall. The UIL plans to start fall sports on time, including football games Aug. 27.
While the UIL has no plans to cancel or postpone the fall sports season, Salinas believes the organization could mirror whatever the Big 12, which University of Texas, Baylor University and Texas Tech University are in, decides to do this year.
Although the UIL plans to start fall sports on time, at the end of the day, school districts have the power to say if programs will compete this year. Texas saw one UIL school Monday say it won’t participate in volleyball or football this season. And when one domino falls, it always creates a ripple effect.
“When one domino falls, another one will fall after that,” Charles said.