UIL suspends all activities through March 29
By Scott Akanewich
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has finally hit home in Liberty Hill.
On Friday, the UIL announced all activities will be suspended until March 29 due to concerns over the global outbreak of Covid-19.
However, the suspension of events – as opposed to cancellation – means the sports schedule will be completed in its entirety regardless of what is required, said Jamey Harrison, UIL deputy executive director.
“We are 100 percent committed to finishing out the school year,” he said. “We have multiple plans and we’re going to be as flexible as possible.”
According to Liberty Hill athletic director and head football coach Jeff Walker, his program is simply abiding by the directives which come down from the state level.
“We’re at the mercy of whatever the UIL tells us to do as far as what we can and can’t do,” said Walker. “It’s not going to affect us anymore than it will anyone else – we’ll just have to make the best of it.”
At this point, the plan is to resume practices once school is back in following spring break on March 23, with competition resuming on March 30.
Despite the fact the UIL left it up to each individual school district to determine whether or not to continue practicing during the ban on competition, Walker said he and his staff will use next week to thoroughly sanitize the entire campus.
“I’ve met with all our coaches and set up a game plan,” he said. “All of them are getting a seven-day break they ordinarily wouldn’t while we’ll have the entire place cleaned out.”
As far as how the suspension will affect the resumption of events, Harrison said in order to ensure all seasons are completed in their entirety, certain restrictions which are usually in place regarding competition will be lifted.
“For example, usually teams can only play two games a week, but we would allow them to play more,” he said. “We’ve also extended certification deadlines for the affected sports, which means the district season can go on longer than usual.”
Harrison stressed the fact activities are being suspended and not called off altogether.
“We’re absolutely committed to continuing the state basketball tournament,” he said. “But, it’s difficult to manage state competitions with so many schools closing down.”
Neither Liberty Hill basketball team is affected by the suspension, as both the girls’ and boys’ teams were eliminated in the regional quarterfinals. Both soccer squads were scheduled to begin the postseason on March 26-28, but that timetable will have to be pushed back at least two days. The district schedule was set to finish up on March 17 with both Liberty Hill teams hosting Lampasas – games which will now have to be rescheduled before the playoffs begin.
However, nothing is set in stone, said Harrison.
“At this point, there are no options which are off the table,” he said. “What we’re facing is unprecedented and it’s a situation which changes hourly, so we don’t know.”
The Panthers’ baseball team was competing in the Fort Bend ISD tournament in the Houston area this week, but returned home after its first two games of the event on Thursday.
Harrison added the UIL had emergency plans in place for something such as this, but the organization has still had to improvise.
“We have contingency plans, but you never know what it’s going to be contingent on,” he said. “We’re already working on new ones.”
As sports organizations at the professional and college levels have suspended or canceled operations in the face of the outbreak, the UIL made its own determination based on information they were receiving and wasn’t simply following suit, said Harrison.
“We didn’t make our decision based on what others were doing,” he said. “With our situation, it’s different because we’re dealing with minors and we made our decisions largely based on our communication with state agencies.”
Despite the uncertainty and ever-changing conditions the pandemic has caused, Harrison said the UIL remains steadfast in completing all seasons – whatever it takes.
“We don’t know where all this is going,” he said. “But, we going to finish off everything – we’re completely committed.”
Walker said if there’s a silver lining in the entire situation, the timing of the suspension will give coaches and athletes alike a break – albeit under unfavorable conditions.
“It’ll give our kids a chance to get away and just be kids over spring break,” he said. “We’re never going to jeopardize their health. We’re going to take care of everyone.”