Kilgore quarterback Dalton McElyea (5) scrambles for yards in the 2019 season. The UIL seems to have decided to allow video broadcasts of regular season games for at least this upcoming football season, something they normally only allow during the playoffs. (File photo by DENNIS JACOBS)

For at least one year, the University Interscholastic League will likely allow Friday night football games to be broadcast live during the 2020 season.

Here in Kilgore, the Ragin’ Red Broadcasting team has called Kilgore High School football games for about 40 years. But this provision would allow video for high school football, something not normally allowed by the UIL during the regular season (state championship games are broadcast live each year from AT&T Stadium on Fox Sports Southwest).

On Wednesday at the organization’s biannual legislative council meetings, Dr. Charles Breithaupt, UIL executive director, said due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of fan attendance in the fall that football games may be broadcast via video.

This is a change to the UIL’s ban on Friday night football broadcasts. Radio broadcasts have been live with video allowed one hour after completion of the football game.

In May, the UIL expanded Breithaupt’s ability to make temporary modifications to current rules to resolve issues related to the pandemic.

Breithaupt anticipates some fans may not choose to attend games “because they are fearful” of the coronavirus or they are part of higher-risk group.

The UIL legislative council members supported the one-year change. The meeting was held via Zoom and may be seen on the UIL YouTube.com channel.

It’s important to note that the UIL Is still considering several things regarding sports for the upcoming school year, not just for football. Currently, many schools around the state are allowing student athletes to be in-house for conditioning. Here at Kilgore, volleyball and football players have been attending conditioning sessions for the last two weeks, normally Monday through Thursdays.

Precautions have been taken: temperatures of athletes are being checked upon arrival. Some school districts nearby have dismissed their conditioning programs temporarily after positive COVID-19 test results (Spring Hill and Marshall).

Still, “The temporary suspension of the rule prohibiting live telecasts during regular season Friday night football games is under consideration for the 2020 football season under this resolution. Until UIL releases official information regarding implementation around this issue, the current rule remains in place. Pending guidance from state authorities, further information will be forthcoming prior to the start of the 2020 football season,” the UIL stated in an email.

“The Friday Night Lights elements still exist in Texas and we don’t believe COVID-19 is going to do away with that,” Breithaupt said. “But I do believe this is a time for us to stand down on our Friday night broadcast rule — not permanent, just a a one time venture.

“We know this — there will be many people who stay away because they are fearful, particularly our elderly and our senior citizens. We want to give them a chance to see the game based on what the local district allows.

“I’ve always stood for protecting Friday night. It has been the passion for all of our schools to have community involvement. It is not just about a football game or marching at halftime, it is the drill team, pom groups, and the cheerleaders ... Friday night is a special time.”

The UIL will not be involved in specific broadcast decisions. Instead, it will permit school districts to make individual decisions about streaming games on digital or linear platforms. Both schools in the game must agree on the broadcast parameters.

“The UIL has no interest in getting involved in those conversations unless you need our assistance,” Breithaupt said. “We’re not going to gain one thing from this. It just gives people a chance to see the game that wouldn’t ordinarily come because of COVID-19.”

He added during the school year, skill work may be the focus during athletics, while the UIL will allow after school or before school for strength and conditioning due to the COVID-19 halting the school in the spring.

Breithaupt also noted this will be the 100th year of UIL football and the 100th year of basketball will be celebrated in the spring of 2021.

Breithaupt said the UIL usually unveils their calendar on June 1, but it will likely be on July 1 for the 2020-21 school year.

It’s not clear if or how the UIL will dictate attendance restrictions at sports games this fall. Breithaupt said they will wait to hear from Gov. Greg Abbott on the issue.

In his announcement for Phase 3 of Texas’ reopening in early June, Abbott allowed stadiums for pro sports to open to fans at 50% capacity.

UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison said the UIL is “absolutely dedicated” to holding a fall sports season and hopes to announce plans “soon.”

The temporary change to broadcast will only affect football, as the UIL has already permitted all other sports to showcase live events aside from state championships.


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