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Area athletic directors cool to flip-flopping high school fall and spring seasons amid pandemic

Rising number of new COVID-19 cases has prompted three biggest school districts in Greater San Antonio to halt summer workouts on campus.
Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
The UIL's message on the Alamodome JumboTron tells the story of the fate of the boys basketball state tournament this year.

SAN ANTONIO — With the high school football season only two months away and coronavirus cases continuing to spike in Texas, a Dallas private school coach has made a proposal he thinks would give UIL and TAPPS schools a better chance of playing all their sports during the 2020-21 school year.

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that Jason Lavvorn, head football coach at First Baptist Academy in Dallas, came up with a plan that would move all fall sports to the spring and all spring sports to the fall.

Lavvorn, who is also head of First Baptist Academy, confirmed to Kens5.com on Tuesday that he submitted his proposal to flip-flop fall and spring sports to TAPPS officials on Sunday. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools is the largest organization for non-public schools in the state.

Lavvorn’s plan also has sparked discussions among University Interscholastic League officials, and athletic directors and coaches at UIL schools across the state. The UIL governs extracurricular activities for Texas public schools.

“Every option is on the table when it comes to trying to make sure we get to have our seasons,” UIL deputy executive director James Harrison told the Dallas Morning News.

But Harrison quickly added a caveat: “Right now, we are not looking at flipping seasons.”

Lavvorn’s proposal comes at a time when a number of school districts across the state have suspended summer strength and conditioning workouts because of the rise in COVID-10 cases. The Northside, North East and San Antonio school districts, the three largest in Greater S.A., are among those that have stopped workouts.

Under Lavvorn’s plan, softball and baseball would be the first sports to start their seasons, and football and volleyball, which normally begin in August, would open preseason workouts Feb. 15. Volleyball teams would start playing Feb. 22, and football would kick off March 5. The calendar would be virtually the same for UIL and TAPPS schools until the championships.

Credit: Dan Dunn / Special to Kens5.com
Judson running back De'Anthony Lewis, on the go against New Braunfels last year, rushed for 1,877 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior season

The TAPPS state volleyball tournament would be played May 19-21, with the UIL state event following on May 26-29.

The TAPPS football finals would be played May 27-29, and the UIL state title games would be on June 9-12.

Area high school athletic directors were generally cool to Lavvorn’s proposal.

“Baseball, softball, track, soccer, pretty much lost their seasons this spring,” North East ISD athletic director Kelly Parker said. “So, are we going to move them to the fall, and are they going to lose another season, so we can have football and volleyball and cross country in the spring?

“Don’t get me wrong. I love football, but we’ve got to think about the kids that play those other sports. That’s my only issue with that. Why are we doing it? Are we doing it because we think we wouldn’t be able to start football in the fall, or are we doing it because we think there might be a break in the fall where we have to shut everything down again?

“If that’s the case,” Parker said, “we’re fixing to do those poor guys in the spring what just happened to them this spring. And we’re going to make them suffer again. If they can guarantee that no matter what, baseball and softball are going to play their full seasons, I have no problem with it. But if they’re thinking of doing this because they feel that there’s another chance of a spike in the fall and it would cut into the middle of football, then I’m not for that.”

Schools in Texas closed after the outbreak of the pandemic in mid-March, effectively shutting down all extracurricular activities for the remainder of the academic year.

TAPPS schools returned to campus to start strength and conditioning workouts on June 1, and UIL schools followed a week later.

Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
Jim Streety, the leader among Greater S.A. football coaches in career victories, says he's skeptical about flip-flopping the fall and spring seasons.

Northside ISD athletic director Stan Laing agreed that flip-flopping the seasons would be a last resort for the UIL, but he also stressed the importance of remaining flexible.

“I think at this point, we’re all being called on to think outside the box and to pivot at a moment’s notice,” Laing said. “A perfect example is with the strength and conditioning right now. Sitting in and being part of the conversations about what the start of the school year is going to look like, there’s a lot of speculation right now.

“We can’t finalize anything until we get closer to August. I know August is knocking on the door. I know flip-flopping seasons would be a last resort for the UIL, even they have stated everything is on the table. If that was the case, we’ll figure out how to make it work. Just like we’re going to figure out how to make school work.”

Lavvorn was upbeat after speaking with TAPPS officials.

“We’ve had some great conversations like we always do,” Lavvorn said. “I wasn’t surprised at all to hear from TAPPS that they’ve been considering and looking in-depth at several options, and that includes some of the thoughts that were outlined in the proposal that I gave.

“Obviously, my proposal isn’t the only opinion that they’ve received. But after talking to them, I felt very confident going into the year that whatever they decide, it’s definitely going to be well thought out and well researched, and will be in the best interest of everyone.”

Football and wrestling have the highest level of potential infection risk levels of UIL and TAPPS sports, according to the National Federal of State High School Associations, which bases its information on the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

By comparison, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, and tennis are considered moderate-risk sports in the context of potential infection levels.

“I’m pretty skeptical about that,” said Jim Streety, athletic director of the New Braunfels ISD. “I really am. To be honest, I don’t know how other people feel about that, but I don’t think you can rob Peter to pay Paul. It may happen and it may be great. If so, then all the better.

“But the scheduling difficulties and that sort of thing, there’s somebody a lot smarter than me going to figure that out if that happens. I see that being a last resort for the UIL to buy that. I really do. That’s Jim Streety talking. I’ve got no inside connection whatsoever.”

Brian Clancy, an assistant athletic director with the SAISD, said that the idea of flip-flopping sports was discussed during a policy committee meeting of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association on June 11.

“I brought it up in the meeting,” Clancy said. “In the grand scheme of things, one of the things that keeps the campus culture and the campus vibe and morale going is the beginning of football and that tradition of fall football.

“The success that your team has throughout the fall carries over to the second semester and helps you get through the calendar. Is flip-flopping seasons our best option to be able to play all of our sports next year? That’s the big question.

The high school football season begins on Thursday, Aug. 27.