I happened to come across a Twitter post on Tuesday afternoon detailing the struggles of some school districts and spectators in Texas to enforce and adhere to social distancing policies that have been set in place by the University Interscholastic League.
“Was told the UIL indicated it does not want to be in the position of shutting down sports across the state, but that could be an option if schools and spectators do not do a better job of following the guidelines set,” wrote Matt Stepp, a Texas high school football insider for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
Go on Twitter and type “Texas high school football social distancing” into the search box and multiple results will appear with photos and stories of the lack of social distancing and masks being worn by spectators – not exactly the picture that the UIL, student-athletes, coaches, and school administrators want to see as we try to play high school football during a once-in-a-century health pandemic.
And these rules come with capacity being limited to 50% of the stadium’s normal capacity. In an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines that have been set forth by the UIL, seats are blocked off by dots, taped ‘Xs’ or trash bags.
I totally get it. It’s still very hot outside. On Aug. 28, the season opener for teams in Classes 1A-4A, the high temperature in Dallas was 105 degrees.
It’s not easy to keep on a mask in those conditions, much less for three consecutive hours – except if you need to eat or drink. It gets uncomfortable after sitting in the lobby of an air conditioned car repair shop for more than 30 minutes.
But, the rules are the rules.
Football players and coaches have all gone out of their way to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Coppell has had cohorts of the same three players work out together during summer voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. Masks and neck gaiters have been utilized at every workout for Lake Dallas and The Colony high schools.
Consider us to be fortunate that the UIL will allow high school football to be played this fall.
More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have suspended football and other sports until the spring. California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland and Illinois are amongst the states that will not have high school football in 2020.
San Antonio ISD announced on Sept. 2 that it has delayed the start of in-person athletics until Oct. 5 due to uncertainty with COVID-19 in Bexar County.
It’s not just at the high-school level where football programs are experiencing the rippling effects of COVID-19.
COVID-19 has tipped the hands of several major conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac 12. The Pac 12 has postponed fall sports, including football, until at least the spring. The Big Ten had originally voted to move back fall sports until the spring but there are rumors that football may kick off the 2020 season as soon as Oct. 10.
High schools in Classes 5A and 6A in Texas are allowed to play in a preseason scrimmage starting on Sept. 17 and can play their first regular season game one week later on Sept. 24.
Texas high school football must be played for the well-being of the players, and for that to happen, we need to comply. If you need a mask, I have a bag full of unused masks. If you don’t feel like wearing a mask, you can watch every game from the comfort of your own home. In response to COVID-19, the UIL has temporarily lifted the ban on the broadcasting of live games.
Football is these players’ lives. Many are playing for a college scholarship. Some play football to escape the harsh realities of the everyday life in some of the toughest neighborhoods as well as tough situations inside their own homes. Some play to carry on the torch of a sibling, parent or relative who once played.
The UIL has given us the right to watch high school football in person. The athletes, coaches and school administrators have worked tirelessly to ensure that you can attend a game. They have done their part. Let’s not screw it up.