The Southwest Preparatory Conference, an organization that oversees and regulates private school athletics throughout parts of Oklahoma and Texas, has decided to cancel all high school fall sports competition outright in the face of the tightening grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic regionally.
The SPC’s Board of Directors voted Friday to cancel all practices, games and postseason play for fall sports, as many member schools have opted to begin the school year with remote-learning options for students only as they grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in their respective communities.
It’s the first group of Texas high schools to collectively decide to cancel fall sports wholesale without entertaining the possibility of flip-flopping seasons or further delaying their starts.
“Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the SPC Board of Directors approves the cancellation of the 2020 fall SPC athletic season,” wrote the SPC Board of Directors in an email to all its member institutions. “We recognize each of our member schools are under unusual and challenging circumstances regarding every aspect of their school’s operations.
“We recognize we are members of a Conference with a wide variance in local conditions, approaches, and opinions regarding how to handle these challenging circumstances as they relate to athletic competition. We (also) recognize our member schools are located in multiple metro areas, spread over a wide geographic area, with varying health conditions, regulations, public opinions, and governmental recommendations.”
The SPC governs athletics for 18 private high schools spread across the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Oklahoma City metro areas.
The organization currently sponsors five fall sports: cross country, field hockey, football and boys and girls volleyball.
The SPC Board of Directors also noted in their email to member school communities that plans for winter and spring sports will remain in place as currently scheduled, at least tentatively, and that it will continue to make updates to schedules and policies as new information becomes available from state and local officials and as the COVID-19 circumstances evolve in its respective communities.
SPC Commissioner Bob Windham and Chair of the SPC Board of Directors Chris Gunnin previously announced on Sunday that a return to fall sports would be postponed until Sept. 21 at the earliest.
In mid-July, The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), which governs private school athletics for schools like Brownsville St. Joseph throughout Texas, announced it planned to delay the start of fall sports for its member schools until at least Sept. 8.
In late July, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which oversees public high school athletics throughout the state, revealed amended plans for the return to fall sports for its member schools.
Under that plan, schools from Class 1A-4A are currently allowed to practice and compete in fall sports contests pending any county-level public health orders that bar schools from returning to on-campus activities presently.
Class 5A and 6A schools, meanwhile, will be allowed to return to football and volleyball practices on Sept. 7, start an acclimation period Sept. 14 and kick off the regular season competition during the first week of October, if not constrained by county-level public health orders at that time.
Schools in Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties may return to on-campus practices and extracurricular activities after Sept. 27, while Willacy County schools must wait until Sept. 21.
The SPC’s move, however, could dramatically impact the UIL’s football landscape for the upcoming season.
According to a list of the best Class of 2021 Texas high school football recruits compiled by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, nine of the state’s top 100 prospects play at SPC or TAPPS schools.
That group also includes the state’s two highest ranked recruits: Fort Worth All Saints offensive tackle Tommy Brockmeyer and Houston Episcopal offensive tackle Donovan Jackson.
Brockmeyer, along with twin brother and center James, have both committed to play at Alabama next year, while their All Saints teammates — athlete Montaye Dawson and quarterback Hampton Fay — have committed to play at SMU and Michigan State, respectively.
Jackson, meanwhile, is verbally committed to join the Ohio State Buckeyes, while his Houston Episcopal teammate, guard Cullen Montgomery, has already committed to the Oklahoma Sooners.
It’s unclear if some, all or any of the above mentioned players will be eligible to play out their senior seasons at any UIL schools, although it could have a profound effect on the balance of power on the gridiron across Texas this season.