SAN ANTONIO - There was a buzz of excitement around the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Sunday morning.
As the doors opened at 8 a.m., coaches from across the State of Texas flooded into the convention hall for the annual Texas High School Coaches Association Coaching School event, which was done completely virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
An expected 14,000 coaches are slated to attend the annual event with a record 23,778 THSCA Members now registered, according to THSCA Executive Director Joe Martin.
Martin and the University Interscholastic League's Dr. Susan Elza and Dr. Jamey Harrison addressed the media on Sunday morning to talk some of the biggest topics and challenges facing high school sports as we enter the 2021-2022 calendar year.
Here were some of the biggest takeaways.
Name, Image, Likeness
NIL has dominated the news cycle since collegiate athletes were able to start making money off their Name, Image or Likeness starting on July 1 in most states. That was the case for the State of Texas, which passed bill SB 1385 to allow that. But the rule doesn't impact high school athletes.
"We are hoping to have some of that final information in the next few days but we don't control that timeline. We are in wait and see." - Harris said.
Home School Athletes Allowed to Play HS Sports
Another bill that the Texas Legislature passed was better known as the "Tim Tebow Bill", which would allow schools to allow homeschool students to participate in UIL activities. Schools and school districts are not required to do it but can.
"There are definitely some schools considering it," Harrison said. "But using your words, I don't think it is even close as most of the school districts will not opt in to allow that. But I don't think we will have zero opt in either, I think there will be some school districts that will allow that."
In the June UIL Legislative Council meeting, Harrison said they passed numerous rules regarding this ruling.
School districts have until August 1 to opt in for the 2021-2022 school year to allow homeschool students to participate in UIL activities. That deadline, because the law doesn't go into affect until September 1 and UIL seasons begin early August, will apply to varsity athletics only.
Could Class 7A be coming sooner than later?
As school districts continue to build and open one high school after another, eventually there will come a time that the UIL will not be able to fit them all into Class 5A & 6A.
"I think the 7A conversation is becoming more and more real," Harrison said.
So, when could we see it come to fruition?
The UIL realigns classifications and districts every two years with the next coming in February of 2022, which will give schools their districts for the 2022-2023 & 2023-2024 seasons. It won't happen then, Harrison said but it could come in either the 2024 or 2026 realignment.
"There aren't many new 2A high schools," Harrison said. "They're all 5A or 6A. They may start as 4A but in very short order they are going to grow to 5A or 6A. So, we keep adding schools at 5A and 6A and we can roughly handle about 500 of them - 250 in 6A and 250 in 5A. So, if you had 20 and now we have too many."
In the 2020 UIL Realignment, according to UIL documents there was 245 Class 6A and 252 Class 5A programs. The cutoff for Class 6A programs was 2,200 & up and Class 5A was 1,230 - 2,219 enrollment.
In Houston alone, since opening Shadow Creek has jumped from 5A to 6A and Fulshear has gone from 4A to 5A and newly opened schools Katy Jordan and Randle HS are set to be aligned into districts for football play.
Water Polo to Begin in 2022-2023
Next fall, water polo will begin its first-ever UIL season.
Water polo was added as a sport prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is now set for its debut a year from August. Dr. Susan Elza said it will be a fall sport running from August until October with state championships being around mid-end of October.
Schools will designate in October and January of this year what sports they will compete in for the 2022-2023, 2023-2024 athletic calendars and then be aligned into districts come February. There will be boys and girls water polo seasons.
SAN ANTONIO - The University Interscholastic League (UIL), which oversees the governance of public school athletics in Texas, is currently "very entrenched in the process" of understanding the new Name, Image and Likeness rules.
UIL Deputy Director Dr. Jamey Harrison spoke to the media on Sunday morning - the opening day of the 2021 Texas High School Coaches Association School - inside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and addressed NIL.
"We were aware of the conversations, so we were having internal discussions about that might look like," Harrison said. "That conversation was trying to follow two paths simultaneously. One is, with our existing rules is there a way for a student to benefit from their name, image and likeness without running afoul of their rules and how that might work. The other conversation was about future rule changes and how that might happen.
"We have had no changes to our amateur rule in the past couple of years."
The Texas Legislature, like many states, passed its own legislation surrounding Name, Image or Likeness with the passing of S.B. 1385, which went into affect for collegiate athletes on July 1.
In that bill though, Section J covered high school athletes and recruitment of athletes.
|No individual, corporate entity, or other organization|
|(1) enter into any arrangement with a prospective|
|student athlete relating to the prospective student athlete's name,|
|image, or likeness prior to their enrollment in an institution of|
|higher education; or|
|(2) use inducements of future name, image, and|
|likeness compensation arrangement to recruit a prospective student|
|athlete to any institution of higher education.|
When the NCAA does pass new laws for collegiate athletes, that does not mean it is the same for high school athletes, Harrison said and there has been some confusion around NIL.
"[HS athletes] need to be very careful about reading too much of what they see on social media or even mainstream media about how they now have opportunities that they didn't previously have because I'm not sure they do.
"Our rules are readily available on our website and they aren't NCAA rules."
The UIL is currently working with state legislatures and legal council to fully understand the new NIL rules and how it may affect high school athletes and are expected to put something out this fall.
"We are hoping to have some of that final information in the next few days but we don't control that timeline," Harrison said. "We are in wait and see."
The UIL Legislative Council is slated to meet again in October.