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UIL spring sports, school year's remaining championship events fall prey to coronavirus

The University Interscholastic League, which governs extracurricular events in state's public schools, canceled spring schedule Friday.
Credit: Photo by Antonio Morano bit.ly/XR79FT / Special to KENS5.com
Reagan, celebrating after winning the Region IV-6A baseball title in 2018, has advanced to the state tournament three times in the past six seasons.

SAN ANTONIO — With the country still in the grip of the coronavirus, the UIL had no choice but to cancel its spring sports Friday after Governor Gregg Abbott announced that all Texas schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

While all UIL sports activities had been suspended for a little more than a month, most athletic directors and coaches maintained hope that teams would resume playing before the end of the school year.

But when Abbott scratched the rest of the spring semester, he effectively shut down athletics in the state's public and private schools. In the end, Abbott's decision was probably a foregone conclusion.

"To be quite honest with you, I fully expected that to happen," Northside ISD athletic director Stan Laing said. "From a competitive standpoint, you feel for the kids. They've put in some time, energy and effort into competing in something they're very passionate about."

The University Interscholastic League, which governs extracurricular in Texas public schools, canceled all remaining 2019-20 spring activities and state championships after Abbott's announcement.

"I was not surprised at all," San Antonio ISD athletic director Todd Howey said. "This is an unprecedented situation and the UIL had to make some tough decisions. I think it had to done. I think in the long run it's going to save lives, and it's going to keep a lot of people from getting sick. I support the UIL. There's no playbook for this.

“I hate it for our kids. I can't imagine what a senior is feeling like right now. There are very few things in life that are bigger than your senior year in high school. You have graduation, maybe getting married, getting your first job, your first child. You have scrapbooks dedicated to your senior year. These kids got robbed, but I think it had to be done."

New Braunfels ISD athletic director Jim Streety was deeply disappointed with Friday’s news.

"I'm heartbroken for the kids," he said.

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.

The first UIL championship event affected by the coronavirus was the boys basketball state tournament at the Alamodome last month. The tournament was suspended on March 12, after only four games were played on the first day of the three-day event.

The UIL then suspended soccer, softball, baseball, track and field, golf and team tennis.

"You want to see your kids have the opportunity to compete," Laing said. "It's disappointing from that standpoint, but what you're real disappointed about is those seniors who won't have the opportunity to compete. Who knew their season would be cut short?'

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the governing body for the most of the state's private schools, followed the UIL’s lead Friday.

"You talk about history, you're living it right now," said Mike Harrison, Holy Cross athletic director and head football coach. "I think we're all a little brokenhearted about it, but I'm more concerned with the safety of my kids.

"I want to play softball, I want to play baseball, I want to run track, I want to play golf. I want to do all those things. But what's more important right now, by far, is are our kids safe? Let's just be safe right now."

Streety still figured on-campus classes would resume eventually this spring.

"I had gotten my hopes up – now I didn't expect us to go back May 4, or whenever it was – but I was hoping that we'd get a pushback of a week or two and just come back the last couple of weeks and have some closure.

"That's what I was hoping for. I didn't think we'd go back three weeks from now. It made me sick. I feel awful for the kids, especially for those seniors. It's disappointing that they didn't get to finish, but you know, in this life, we don't win every day."

Credit: David Flores / IKens5.com
Cole beat Peaster in the Class 3A state semifinals in the last game before the UIL suspended its boys basketball state tournament last month.

Although he was downcast, Streety stressed that he understood why Abbot opted to keep the state's schools closed.

"I don't question any of that at all," Streety said.

Streety said it's important to focus on the proverbial big picture and try to glean something positive from the experience of living through the scourge of the coronavirus.

"This may be a hard, tough lesson on how we're going to bounce back." Streety said. "How are we going to handle this adversity? How are we going to come back for the next thing? Kids are a lot more resilient than adults about a lot of things.

Here is the text of the announcement made by UIL on Friday: 

With the announcement from Governor Greg Abbott that all Texas schools are to remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of this school year, and in an effort to help protect the health and safety of Texans, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is canceling all remaining 2019-2020 spring activities and state championships.

“Our staff had been working hard on plans to resume activities this spring, but without schools in session, interscholastic activities cannot continue,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “Our highest priority during this challenging time is ensuring the health and safety of our students and communities and making progress in the containment of COVID-19 in Texas. We are now turning our attention to the 2020-2021 school year.”

Practices, rehearsals, and workouts remain suspended until further notice. The previously communicated information allowing remote instruction remains in place. The UIL will continue to follow the direction of state authorities and will work closely with member schools to navigate this unprecedented time.

“I am grateful to the UIL staff for their leadership and dedication to students,” said UIL Legislative Council Chair Curtis Rhodes. “Together we will get through this and we look forward to the day students are once again able to participate in education-based interscholastic activities.”

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