UIL delays football, volleyball season for Class 5A & 6A high schools

Texas will play high school football this fall with some changes that will delay the season for large schools and limit fan attendance.

The University Interscholastic League announced Tuesday a one-month delay into late September for football and volleyball at the state's largest schools. Smaller schools can start on time in August if local rules allow.

The UIL said the delay for large schools, which would begin the football season on Sept. 24, focuses on the state's largest population areas that have been hit hardest in the coronavirus pandemic.

"This plan provides a delay for schools in highly-populated metro areas, primarily conferences 5A-6A, given the challenges with COVID-19 those communities are facing, while providing schools in other areas, primarily 1A-4A, an opportunity to start seasons on schedule. 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," the UIL said in a release.

The league also released safety guidelines for student-athletes, practices, games, fans, concession stands and more. They do include a face mask requirement.

"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 the risk of COVID-19 spread."

The plan does allow schools to make adjustments at the local level when there are scheduling issues.

Governor Greg Abbott addressed Texas high school coaches Tuesday.

"Texas is emerging stronger than ever before. High school sports are a part of that process," he said.

But even Dallas ISD, with mostly 5A and 6A schools, also has 3A and 4A schools.

"Everybody’s asking, ‘What are you going to do?’ Well, they just laid out the rules of engagement, and now we’re going to have to figure out how we fit into those rules and those guidelines," said Dallas ISD Executive Director of Athletics Silvia Salinas.

Extracurricular activities and sports aren't allowed to start in Dallas County until September 8th, per an order by the county’s top health official, so those 3A and 4A schools will still be impacted.

"We’re competing against teams that are not shut down and really are going to be five, six weeks ahead of us," Salinas said.

By early counts, this UIL rule could impact 145 scheduled games.

Two 6A football coaches in North Texas said the UIL's announcement gives them a framework to move forward.

"I think relief to some extent. We’ve been in such a challenging time in regards to varying information, lack of information. At the end of the day, what I think it does is provide hope. Hope for kids that they’re going to have an opportunity to participate in the things that they love," said Arlington Martin H.S. football coach Bob Wager.

"It’s very difficult. The biggest thing is the anticipation of what’s going to actually happen. You hear a lot about, ‘We’re going to do this, we’re not going to do this.’ You’re watching the colleges and you’re watching the NFL and it really makes it a little uneasy. But, again, I feel better now because at least we have some guidance from the UIL," said Reginald Samples, Duncanville H.S. football coach.

"The practices start after Labor Day. And then the first games would be September 24th through the 26th. What gets interesting then is you’re talking about games going into December and through Christmas and into January when you’re talking about playing a full 17-week season," said Greg Tepper, managing editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. "High school football coaches scrambling to try to put together some semblance of a schedule."

People who follow the UIL closely thought the league might push the entirety of the season back for all classifications. That’s not the case.

Key Dates

        1A-4A - August 3 = First day of practice
        1A-4A - August 27 = First games
        1A-4A - December 16-19 = State championships
        5A-6A - September 7 = First day of practice
        5A-6A - September 24 = First games
        5A-6A - January TBD = State championships

        1A-4A - August 3 = First day of practice
        1A-4A - August 10 = First games
        1A-4A - November 18-21 = State championships
        5A-6A - September 7 = First day of practice
        5A-6A - September 14 = First games
        5A-6A - December 11-12 = State championships

Marching Band
        September 7 = First day of practice
        December TBD = State championships