I originally thought the University Interscholastic League was going to drop the ball after Monday’s announcement didn’t come as originally planned. But it redeemed itself the next day by making a much anticipated announcement about high school fall sports.

Student-athletes can play fall sports.

This was a wonderful announcement for everyone involved including student-athletes, coaches, families, friends, fans and Galveston County Daily News Sports Editor James LaCombe. He probably won’t admit it, but I’m sure he was leaping with joy externally and internally.

The coronavirus has yet to take away fall sports like it did with spring sports so far. Of course, the situation constantly changes, so fall sports still can wind up being canceled later in the season.

The worst part is if fall sports did get canceled, it wouldn’t be on the athletes’ and coaches’ terms. As a former high school student-athlete, I had to give up playing golf my senior year (at the time, I played the best golf of my life the summer before my senior year started) because I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with my studies, college applications and co-editor-in-chief responsibilities of the student newspaper The Chieftain, while also designing our newspaper's new website and serving as vice president of our school's Future Business Leaders of America organization.

Golf was the most logical choice to not continue, but even to this day I wonder what could have been. I probably would have been on varsity since I played between varsity and JV tournaments as a junior. I worked since sixth or seven grade to try to make one of the five varsity roster spots.

My point is I had a choice. Student-athletes now don’t have a choice if the coronavirus cancels their sport(s). This makes the whole situation worse.

But for now, let’s rejoice in the fact that these high school student-athletes can play a sport they love. COVID-19 hasn’t taken that away from them.

The UIL decided conferences 4A and below can start on time. So in Galveston County, La Marque and Hitchcock high schools can start their fall sports seasons in August. The first day of practices for football and volleyball will be Aug. 3. Volleyball season will get underway the week of Aug. 10, team tennis and cross country seasons the week of Aug. 17 and football the week of Aug. 27.

Galveston County 5A and 6A schools — Ball High, Clear Creek, Clear Falls, Clear Springs, Dickinson, Friendswood, Santa Fe and Texas City — will begin Sept. 7, per the UIL’s guidance. Games for team tennis and cross country will begin the week of Sept. 7, for volleyball the week of Sept. 24, and for football the week of Sept. 24.

Even La Marque head football coach Shone Evans was surprised by the announcement.

“I would’ve bet a large sum of money that they wouldn’t let us start on Aug. 3,” Evans told The Daily News on Tuesday. “We tentatively had plans to start Sept. 7 and, worst case scenario, in October.”

Schools will have to adjust their schedules, but if that’s the worst teams have to do for fall sports, I’d count that as a victory.

Fall sports are for student-athletes, and right now, student-athletes are the winners.

“We’re really excited we got something to aim for and a schedule, and I know the kids are excited,” Friendswood athletic director and head football coach Robert Koopmann told The Daily News on Tuesday. “It just feels good to have some concrete answers — as concrete as we can be in the age of COVID.”

Keenan Betz: 409-683-5237, keenan.betz@galvnews.com or on Twitter @surebetkeenan


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