As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Texas, the state could also be facing the unthinkable: no high school football in the fall.
That is at least according to Michael Hinojosa, the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent, who told MSNBC on Thursday morning that he has significant doubts the sport will be able to be played this season amid the pandemic.
“That’s a true contact sport, I don’t see how we can pull that off. There’s been some discussion of moving it to the spring, but we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t, I seriously doubt that we can pull that off,” Hinojosa told MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Hinojosa’s doubts referred only to his district or to the entire state, but his forecast nonetheless raises a significant concern about whether the sport can be played this fall. It comes in the wake of skyrocketing coronavirus cases statewide in Texas, where 220,564 people have tested positive and 2,813 have died as a result of the virus. The state reported 98 deaths on Wednesday, a record high that eclipsed the previous mark set on Tuesday.
In Harris County, where Houston sits, the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized has quadrupled in the past month alone.
Texas is considered one of the country’s hotbeds for high school football, and kickoff to the 2020 season is slated for late August. Even as the virus has surged across the state, some schools have continued to hold practices.
The reaction to Hinojosa’s reported comments were swift on Twitter on Thursday morning.
According to a survey of 515 high school football coaches conducted by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football publication, a majority of coaches were not confident the season would be kicked off on schedule or that a full season would be played.
“If there is a quick spike in cases, we will have to shut down,” one coach told the publication.
The University Interscholastic League, which oversees high school sports across the state, originally had suspended prep sports in March but allowed teams to begin workouts in June as the state gradually began to reopen. The UIL updated its strength and conditioning guidelines on Wednesday, declaring that “schools should take their local context” into account when deciding whether to hold workouts.
The governing body also said that face coverings need to be worn by employees, parents, visitors and students 10 years or older when entering an area where workouts are being held.
“UIL will continue to work with state officials and monitor CDC and other federal guidance to determine any potential modifications,” according to the release.
Texas isn’t the only state to look seriously at calling off high school football season. New Mexico went ahead and made the tough call Thursday, postponing both football and soccer this fall.
Texas is also far from the only high school football hotbed to be experiencing a surge in cases. Florida, which consistently churns out some of the country’s top prospects, has emerged as the country’s epicenter for the virus and reported nearly 9,000 new cases and 120 deaths on Thursday.
Football talent-rich states on the West Coast have also been hit hard. In Arizona, where the high school football season has already been delayed, hospitals are nearing capacity as the state has eclipsed 108,000 cases. California reported a record-high 151 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, and some high school football teams were forced to suspend practices.