UIL aims to lift prohibition on Friday night live video broadcasts for 2020 high school football season

Talk 1370 Newsroom
June 17, 2020 - 1:08 pm

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Live coverage of Friday night high school football could be coming to your home television this fall in Texas, as the leader of the University Interscholastic League appears to be leaning towards lifting a ban on live video broadcasts this fall in the wake of the coronavirus.

UIL officials, in a press release Wednesday afternoon, say no final decision has been made just yet, but Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt announced his intention Wednesday during a meeting of the UIL's Legislative Council.

In May, as the coronavirus pandemic canceled any hope of a spring sports season for high school athletes, the UIL's Legislative Council delegated emergency powers to Breithaupt that would allow him to unilaterally lift the ban in the league's Constitution and Contest Rules, if necessitated by any disruption of normal business operations due to COVID-19, orders of the state or federal government, or related COVID-19 concerns.

The move will be a temporary one, Breithaupt said, but an "opportunity" given concerns about the coronavirus. Breithaupt emphasized that as of right now, the UIL expects to be able to start the 2020 season - which will be the 100th season of UIL high school football - on time, with a full schedule and full stands, but he says officials recognize some fans may be wary of attending games in person.

"I do believe this is a time for us to stand down on our Friday night broadcast rule - not permanently, just for a one-time venture," Breithaupt said. "Because we know this, there will 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."

The UIL's Standing Committee on Policy itself considered a proposal to lift the rule, but chose not to take action on its own.

Historically, the UIL has had a long-standing rule that prohibits Friday night games from being broadcast live on television or other video streaming services. Instead, games have been required to be tape delayed and made available for later viewing, no less than one hour after the end of the game. Radio broadcasts have always been allowed, and games played on any day other than Friday have been allowed to be broadcast live.

Under Breithaupt's proposal, both schools involved in the contest must agree on the parameters of any live broadcast. "The UIL has no interest in getting involved in those conversations unless you need our assistance. 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," Breithaupt said.

As for whether the change could be permanent, Breithaupt says don't count on it.

"I have no notion to carry this forward after this year," Breithaupt said. "This will end following this football season."

In the league's official statement on Breithaupt potentially lifting the rule, officials say further guidance will be forthcoming prior to the start of the 2020 football season.

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