Surprise UIL decision to split start of fall sports creates rescheduling frenzy
After weeks of waiting, Texas high school athletic directors and head football coaches heard from the UIL on Tuesday.
And just as they are often blindsided when biennial realignments are announced, many were surprised and caught off guard when the governing body for Texas high school interscholastic competition announced that only Class 5A and 6A would delay the start of fall athletic seasons.
Class A through Class 4A schools would begin practice for competition on Aug. 3 as scheduled for volleyball, team tennis, cross country and football despite the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across Texas.
The resulting scheduling shift, which affected numerous schools across the Coastal Bend, created a frenzy normally reserved for realignment as coaches burned up the phone lines while texting fingers were cramping trying to fill newly created holes in schedules.
CCISD senior director of athletics Brenda Marshall was in a unique spot as five of the districts schools are in Class 5A, which postponed the start of the football regular season until Sept. 24, while Miller is in Class 4A, which is slated to start Aug. 28.
"As soon as we got the information, we had to compare our 4A football schedule with the 5As," Marshall said. "We have a nine-team 5A district (District 15-5A Division I). The 4A district has six teams. We have to match up games."
"There are so many different scenarios. You have to look at where you put your bye, and think about things like what if you have a positive case of COVID and you have to take a week off and need to reschedule a game."
The District 15-5A Division I Executive Committee will meet this week to begin the process of revising football schedules. Miller home games are automatically set for Buc Stadium, while other CCISD schools use both Buc and Cabaniss Multipurpose Stadium.
Marshall said some weeks were already expecting two games at each site, so maneuvering will likely need to be made with Miller's schedule beginning a month earlier than the rest of the district.
All nine District 15-5A Division I schools have at least one game that will change due to the UIL's decision to split the start of fall sports while District 15-4A Division I schools all lost most of their five-game non-district slates.
"I understand the UIL's reasoning for offsetting the start of the fall season by classification because every geographical area has different needs when it comes to COVID," Veterans Memorial athletic coordinator Cody Simper said. "It does throw a wrinkle into our area here, because we are so varied when it comes to the size of our schools in the Coastal Bend.
"It will cause difficulty in our non-district schedules because we play across classifications during that time. I think the UIL did a great job making the adjustments needed to ensure there was going to be a 2020 football season. I think everyone is just excited we have a plan and can get to work."
The Eagles were originally scheduled to play Alice and Miller in their nondistrict schedule, both Class 4A schools.
The Bucs will join London, West Oso, Tuloso-Midway and Calallen as schools in Corpus Christi that can begin two-a-day workouts Aug. 3 with the Week 1 of the regular season scheduled for Aug. 28.
"We're scrambling but we're working through it," Miller coach Justen Evans said. "I am shocked. The minute you think you know what the UIL is going to do, it is always something different. I've learned to wait until they actually come out with something instead of listening to the theories. We are going to play and try to keep it as safe as possible.
"We'll be one of the only shows in town, the only CCISD (school) playing for a whole month."
Miller's Week 2 contest against Veterans Memorial was one of the marquee games of the season, and one of the biggest games that could be lost.
The Bucs will likely get to keep at least one non-district game against a CCISD foe in Week 5, but it is still to be determined against which school.
Another aspect schools and districts are dealing with is different county orders that either allow or prohibit extra-curricular activities while most schools begin the school year remotely.
Nueces County is currently allowing athletics and extra-curricular activities while school is virtual, but Jim Wells County announced Monday that in-person schooling, including extra-curricular activities, cannot resume until Oct. 9.
Alice ISD released a statement Monday reaffirming that it would follow the county orders, which would keep the school from playing interscholastic games until late October.
The Coyotes' first District 15-4A Division I game is scheduled for Oct. 9 against Miller.
Individual school districts have the leeway to opt out of the order, meaning Alice, Premont, Ben Bolt and Orange Grove can chose to return earlier.
All four districts participate in classifications slated to begin athletics on time.
"I just got the information to our superintendent. I am waiting for a chance to sit down with him and see what the best route is for Alice ISD as we move forward," Alice athletic director Kyle Atwood said.
Tuloso-Midway athletic director Wade Miller had another dilemma, not only having Class 5A schools on the schedule, but with two schools from Hidalgo County on his non-district slate.
Miller said he knew he lost games with two CCISD schools when the announcement came Tuesday, but was dealt another blow when Hidalgo County announced late Tuesday school would not resume in person until Sept. 27, costing T-M its games against La Feria and La Grulla.
"I thought at the best they would delay us all until Sept. 7 and at the worst we would not play or move us to the spring," Miller said. "I never saw this coming. It makes it hard because pretty much everybody we play in preseason are 5A teams.
"If I would have found out (Tuesday) about the Hidalgo County orders, I probably could have filled those games. When you get a day behind, everyone has already filled their schedule. Now we are looking at crazy travel (for potential games). You are looking at traveling two or three hours for a game."
Flour Bluff will not start the regular season until Sept 24, but the Hornets have Laredo Alexander on the schedule for Week 2 and athletic director Chris Steinbruck is waiting to see if Webb County will allow in-person schooling.
The Bluff's Week 1 contest against Beeville is already a victim of the schedule change.
Those changes would be in addition to any changes made by the District 15-5A Division I Executive Committee this week.
"Under the circumstances, I think everybody — our coaches, students and community — want some sense of normalcy," Steinbruck said. "This is given us an opportunity to do that. I think you will find most people happy. As long as we get to play our district schedule, anything else would be bonus."
Quinton Martinez covers all things sports in South Texas. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe