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As high school sports around the state remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UIL remains hopeful that it will be able to resume and complete the remainder of its spring schedule before the end of the 2019-20 school year.

The athletics body reiterated its stance on Sunday during a video conference of the UIL Medical Advisory Committee.

“We do have plans that would allow us to complete all of our state championship activities for this academic year should that opportunity present itself,” said Dr. Jamey Harrison, UIL deputy director. “We will communicate very quickly with schools what those plans include, what all the various deadlines and otherwise associated with that plan would be, but at the moment, all UIL activities are suspended and that includes practices, rehearsals and workouts, at least in person.”

The UIL had previously announced the earliest games could resume is May 4 but amended that timeline on Friday for an unspecified amount of time days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the closure of schools until May 4. 

“Our original message out was that we were suspending until March 30,” Harrison said. “It became evident within just a few days that it wasn’t going to work, so in responding to the available information related to school closures and continual consultation with various state agencies, we suspended all activities with games not beginning any earlier than May 4. 

“Then, in the governor’s press conference, he closed schools to re-open on May 4, so we are suspended until we have more information, essentially.”

Should high school athletics resume before the end of the school year, Harrison said an acclimatization period will be necessary before games can be played.

“What we’ve committed to is, if we start school back, not starting school back and immediately having sports competitions. Schools will need to have the opportunity to allow students to reacclimate,” Harrison said. “We don’t know what those students have been doing in terms of physical activity during this part of the suspended school time, so we know we’re going to provide an acclimatization period of some sort. 

“Until we get more information about when schools may or may not be in session, it’s difficult for us to make any sort of final plans.”

In the interim, coaches are allowed to maintain communication with their players, so long as it isn’t done in person. Several programs have adapted to different methods of video conferencing to conduct team meetings and workouts.

“We are allowing coaches, sponsors and band directors to provide instruction through video means, so they do have the opportunity to communicate with students and provide instruction, but not on an in-person basis,” Harrison said. “We will continue to stay in touch with the state legislature, governor, commissioner of education and all those various entities that come to bear on decisions about school closure. We’re ready to pivot this way or that as needed once we have more information from those agencies.”

UIL high school sports still in season include boys basketball, boys soccer, girls soccer, baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field. The UIL’s initial suspension occurred March 12 during the first day of the state boys basketball tournament. High school soccer’s regular season was down to its two weeks before beginning the postseason on March 26, while baseball and softball teams had either just begun or were approaching the start of district play.

Meanwhile, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools had outlined a plan for potential return-to-play dates — listing April 13, May 4 and May 15 as possibilities for resuming its own spring athletics schedule. With schools closed until May 4, TAPPS has ruled out the April 13 option and now has May 4 as its next potential target date.

Should TAPPS resume play then, schools would be afforded a one-week acclimatization period from May 4-9 where practices and scrimmages are allowed before returning to game action on May 11 — the first of four weeks that would include state championship events for five different sports: tennis during the week of May 11-16, golf during May 18-23, track and field during May 25-30 and baseball and softball during June 1-6.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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