UIL delays fall sports amid COVID-19 pandemic

Football to start Sept. 24 while volleyball begins Sept. 14


Danielle Esperiqueta

A new UIL directive will delay football, volleyball, tennis and cross country’s seasons.

Jackson Posey and Tim Tschoepe

This story will be updated.

Class 5A and 6A fall sports seasons were postponed by the University Interscholastic League Tuesday in a move that carries wide-reaching effects.

Four days earlier, Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools announced it would push the start of its football season from Aug. 27 to Sept. 28 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UIL followed suit, but with a catch: classes 1A-4A will begin the season on schedule, while 5A and 6A – the largest classifications – will have postponed seasons.

Tennis and cross country’s first matches have been moved back to Sept. 7, the same date when volleyball and football can begin practice. Those two sports will begin playing games on Sept. 14 and 24, respectively. 

“At first I was bummed (about the new schedule), but when I read into it I realized that this is a blessing,” rising sophomore and offensive lineman Colton Thomasson said. “We get to still do (total athletic conditioning) up to Sept. 7 according to the guidelines, so that’s good. It’s way better than having to play in the spring.”

Marching band, which starts gearing up for summer camp, cannot begin practice on the halftime show until Sept. 7. The state contest, which includes 2A, 4A and 6A bands this year, will take place in December.

Football is looking at an eight-week regular season, which will include games against seven divisional opponents and either a scrimmage or, less likely, a bye week. If the former, San Antonio Warren and San Antonio Madison are potential foes; the schools previously were scheduled for weeks one and two, respectively. The UIL has also capped stadium capacities at 50% and mandated masks for attendees, among other restrictions.

“Obviously we’re relieved to get some direction after a long period of being in limbo,” head football coach Larry Hill said. “We can begin planning according to the new timelines while remaining ready to adapt if changes come. It looks like our scrimmage and first ball game may require new opponents. We have reached tentative agreements with new schools so it appears that we are set… unless of course we’re forced to adapt again.”

On the volleyball side, group scrimmages are limited to four schools, and invitational tournaments are banned. Each school can play up to 29 matches, up to three per week, and must hit their district certification by Nov. 17. 

Football playoffs for class 4A and below will look quite a bit different than in a normal year, but 5A and 6A should be similar, save for the dates.

Whereas a normal season would wrap up in November, with championship matches around Dec. 20, this year’s 6A playoffs will stretch from bi-district on Dec. 10-12 to the season finale sometime in January.

Volleyball’s playoffs will wrap up Dec. 11-12, later than their typical end date of Nov. 21-23. Team tennis will wrap up Nov. 11-12, and cross country hopes to still be running on Dec. 5.

The UIL also released updated information on the basketball season, moving the district certification date to Feb. 16 and banning tournaments and showcases. The allowable game limit is now 27 games.

The UIL announcement leaves unanswered questions, such as what the schedules will look like, the protocol for positive cases and where the titles games will be played.

“I know that this team right here is prepared for anything,” Thomasson said. “We became a team from boot camp onward. We were on it on showing up into our Zoom meetings to get the plays down, and we (are) all (pushing) each other to get it done to perfection in TAC practice right now. There is no doubt in my mind that the Rangers (will) be ready come week one!”