BREAKING: SPC to not hold Fall Championships, schools to be allowed to go independent for fall according to sources
HOUSTON - The Southwest Preparatory Conference will not host the 2020 SPC Fall Championships the league announced Friday afternoon and according to sources the SPC is going to allow schools to go independent for the Fall season.
Traditionally, SPC hosts a weekend for fall championships either hosted in Dallas or Houston in early November. Football, boys and girls volleyball, field hockey and cross country are the sports that hold fall championships, which were set to be held in Fort Worth this year.
In the Houston-area this move affects the John Cooper School and Awty (which does not play football) in 3A, while Episcopal, Kinkaid, St. John's and Houston Christian play in 4A. SPC is broken up into two zones - North and South - with the north being made up of Dallas-area programs and south being made up of Houston-area schools. There are also a few Austin schools such as Austin Saints, St. Andrews and St. Stephen's who play in the south zone as well.
Episcopal was seeking a second-straight SPC title for both its football and volleyball programs this year.
"This is a senior-heavy football team and same with volleyball," Episcopal head football coach Steve Leisz said. "Both are talented groups and both were looking to go back-to-back. So, it's disappointing that this is going on right now. We had to go through it during the spring. We had a really strong baseball program and softball program and they both had to suffer through it as well. It's tough on those seniors."
Leisz's program is a highly-recruited one in the Houston-area. Just on this team, offensive linemen Donovan Jackson and Cullen Montgomery have verbally committed to Ohio State and Oklahoma with more commitments expected to come off this roster in 2020.
With no spring football and no summer evaluations, Leisz said that has been tough on the athletes. With colleges and schools canceling, Leisz continued to say the transfer portal is filling up and a lot of schools are taking kids from the portal instead of recruiting.
"So, seniors are getting doubly hit hard," he said.
Outside of the recruiting factor, the importance to have some sort of fall season for the football, cross country, field hockey and volleyball athletes is important beyond just getting to play a game.
"They are really struggling emotionally right now," Leisz said. "We were together for a week and a half in June and we were all in masks and you could just see how much the kids missed just seeing each other. Just for social development these kids need to get back together."
St. John's was seeking a third-straight SPC crown for its field hockey team. St. Mark's was the defending boy's cross country champions, Greenhill was the reigning girl's cross country champions and Trinity Valley won boy's volleyball last year.
"Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the SPC Board of Directors approves the cancellation of the 2020 fall SPC athletic season," the SPC released in a statement. "The SPC Board of Directors further approves maintaining existing plans for the winter and spring SPC Championship seasons, and those plans be sustained without alteration and played as currently scheduled consistent with current SPC policies. The Operations Committee and SPC Board of Directors will revisit plans for winter and spring seasons at a later date and determine if any adjustments are required as a result of circumstances at that time."
According to one source, multiple Houston-area schools are intending to opt to play an independent fall schedule for their sports and the independent programs would hold their own championship games. Details for how the title game participants would be decided are being worked out right now, according to the source.
The John Cooper School Athletic Director John Hoye did confirm to VYPE following the announcement that they would be playing an independent fall schedule and are looking to finalize schedules for their upper school teams.
"Considering the different cities that [SPC] have their teams located in and the different COVID-19 infection rates in each of them, I wouldn't say it is totally unexpected," Hoye told VYPE in an interview.
Hoye did say a letter would be going out to parents and the positive message in that is they are planning and scheduling full seasons for athletes.
"I know they are all itching and ready to compete when it's safe," Hoye said. "We're happy we will be able to provide that opportunity and I'm happy that the SPC is still allowing us as schools to make that individual decision. Athletics is that movement and that release that is important for their well-being at this point."
Hoye told VYPE that they are targeting an August 31 start date for practices. The seasons are still slated to start under the same time frame with the first football game to be played September 25, which is when TAPPS and UIL 5A and 6A teams are slated to begin their football seasons.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services COVID-19 tracker website Harris County and Dallas County lead the state in coronavirus cases. Harris county currently has 94,676 cases, while Dallas county has 66,464. On Thursday, there were 4,923 new cases reported in Texas.
The SPC Winter Championships would be the next on the schedule for the 2020-2021 school year, which includes swimming and diving, basketball, soccer and wrestling. Those are typically slated for mid-February.
"2020 is keeping us on our toes is an understatement," Hoye said with a chuckle. "It is a pivot but luckily a lot the conference schools understand that flexibility is the name of the game. When we're taking in consideration the health and well-being of our students, changes may be necessary."
VYPE will continue to update this story as it develops throughout the date.