The 2020 Texas high school football season is scheduled to kick off in seven weeks, but Texas high school football coaches are bracing for the possibility of a delayed, truncated or otherwise disrupted season.
A survey of UIL Texas high school football coaches conducted by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football found that the majority are not confident that the season will start on time, and fewer believe that the season will be played in its entirety as scheduled.
The survey of 515 head coaches, which allowed respondents to answer anonymously, asked a variety of questions about what the 2020 season will look like.
Will the season start on time?
When asked to rate their confidence that the season will begin as scheduled on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most confident), 61.1 percent of respondents rated their confidence at 5 or below. Many cited the growing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in cases of the virus, and the still unanswered questions about school in the fall.
“There has been little information on how and what the fall will look like from administrations,” wrote one coach.
The leeriness of an on-time start was not unanimous — nearly 40 percent of coaches had an overall positive view that the season would kick off as scheduled on August 27, with most saying a return to everyday life is essential.
“I think we need normalcy back as quickly as possible, and we'll have some measures in place to make it happen,” one coach wrote.
Other coaches insisted that the risk is not worth the reward.
“The shutdown of Summer Strength & Conditioning programs for two weeks, even after the extensive COVID-19 protocols we have placed on our kids and sanitation of the facilities, leads me to these conclusions,” one coach, who rated his confidence of an on-time start at a 3, said. “We are going to have to risk athletes getting Coronavirus in order to play. This is not a risk we need to take. Even if there is a less than 1 percent chance an athlete could die from this, that is too great of a risk for a sport.”
Will the season be played in its entirety?
Similarly, the majority of coaches — 62.5 percent — were pessimistic about the idea of playing a full season as scheduled. Possibilities varied significantly from coach to coach, with many seeing a delay and other seeing a truncated schedule that eliminates non-district games.
Others anticipated a season hindered by stops and starts.
“If there is a quick spike in cases, we will have to shut down,” one coach predicted.
But not all coaches felt that way, citing some studies that suggest that younger people are less likely to be seriously impacted by the virus.
“The science says this virus is really not affecting kids,” one coach said. “I think as we get back people will get more comfortable. A lot of this will go away about three months into school.”
Will there be fans in the stands?
If Texas high school football games are played, coaches expect there to be some spectators in the stadiums. Nearly 96 percent of coaches surveyed think there will be at least some fans in the stands for their games, though only 7 percent think they will be allowed to be have full capacity.
A plurality of coaches — 42.5 percent — think there will be about 50 percent capacity at their games, while 23.5 percent of coaches think it’ll be less than half-full. Another 22.7 percent of coaches think the spectators will be limited to just families of players and coaches.
Should the UIL allow live broadcasts of Friday night Texas high school football games?
While Texas high school football coaches don’t see eye-to-eye on the schedule, one topic they’re pretty much in lockstep on: the UIL should allow Friday night games to be broadcast live.
The UIL is considering lifting its longstanding ban on Friday night live broadcasts is for the 2020 season, and coaches are all for it — 88.9 percent of coaches think the ban should be lifted for the upcoming season.
What about playing in the spring?
A hot topic in Texas high school football circles lately is the idea of moving the football season to the spring. Coaches are split on the idea, with most weighing in against it.
When asked about flipping the athletics calendar — that is, moving the fall sports to the spring and the spring sports to the fall — 54.4 percent of coaches disapproved against 45.6 percent approval. For those who voted no, the logistics were a key factor.
“When would we flip it back?” one coach said. “Football in the spring and then immediately again in the fall of 2021? How would flipping sports really help?”
For others, the concept was intriguing.
“Spring sports might be more manageable to play in the fall than football,” one coach wrote. “I would be in favor of anything that allows us to play.”
Coaches were more united in opposition of simply moving the football season to the fall — 80.6 percent of those surveyed didn’t like the idea of playing football in the spring while keeping the remainder of the athletics calendar the same.