The University Interscholastic League announced Tuesday morning that fall sports competition in Classes 5A and 6A will be delayed about a month but Classes 4A and below will remain on schedule.
Football teams competing in 4A and below, including the Austin County schools in Bellville, Sealy and Wallis, will start practice on Aug. 3 and play their first games Aug. 27. By Nov. 7, all district competition will have been completed. State championships will be held Dec. 16-19.
A similar decision to the UIL was made by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) during a July 17 webinar where all fall sports teams had their practice start date pushed back until September but the postseason was not postponed.
Along with their updated schedule, the UIL also released COVID-19 risk mitigation guidelines that districts will have to follow when hosting sporting events. Fan capacity will be limited to 50%, student groups such as marching bands, cheerleaders and drill teams will also be allowed but were advised to bring limited participants and all employees, visitors, parents and students 10 years and older must wear face coverings upon entry and when not actively participating in the event according to the Tuesday release.
In Classes 5A and 6A, football practices can begin Sept. 7, games start Sept. 24 and district certification is Dec. 5 ahead of the state championships which are scheduled for January of 2021.
The Sealy Tigers were the only local team with a higher-classification opponent on their schedule with 5A's Montgomery Lake Creek set for a Sept. 11 showdown at T.J. Mills Stadium.
“These adjustments reflect the public health situation at this time and the varying numbers of COVID-19 cases across different geographic areas of the state,” the UIL said in the Tuesday release. “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.”
The UIL qualified that statement by saying they understand the fluid situation of the pandemic could still create changes in the coming days and weeks but this is the first step to getting districts prepared for the season.
“Our goal in releasing this plan is to provide a path forward for Texas students and schools,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in the release. “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 risk of COVID-19 spread.”
The guidelines also detail the steps to be taken by a district after an individual either shows symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus. It also says for performance areas, band halls, locker rooms and other congregate areas to be cleaned regularly while having ample sanitization stations for all participants.