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Texas High School Coaches Association

UIL moves to limit high school football practice time

They are doing it to limit the risk of concussion.

Established in 2001, the University Interscholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee has done its best to be proactive and stay ahead on issues.

That’s been the case in requiring schools to have automated external defibrillators, dealing with concussions and establishing protocols.

On Sunday, the committee did just that, unanimously recommending a resolution to the UIL legislative council to limit in-season, full-contact practice. Each athlete would be limited to 90 minutes per week of game-speed tackling and blocking to the ground during the regular season and playoffs.

Every recommendation from the advisory committee has been approved by the executive council.

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D.W. Rutledge, the executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association and a committee member, said there could be pushback from coaches but little resistance once they understand the wording on the rule.

“I think with the vast majority of coaches, that fits into their practice schedules without them having to make any adjustments at all,” said Rutledge, who led Converse Judson to four state championships.

Not clear to me how much difference this will make if coaches are generally adhering to this schedule already, but it’s still a step in the right direction. State Rep. Eddie Lucio III has filed HB887 that would do basically the same thing; it was passed unanimously out of the Public Education committee on April 9 and is awaiting a slot on the House calendar. We sure have come a long way from the Bear Bryant days, haven’t we?

Private schools in the UIL

A bill by Sen. Dan Patrick that would allow private schools to compete in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) passed the Senate last week.

Texas is just one of three states in the country — California and Connecticut being the others — that have separate athletic championships for public and private schools.

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For years, the proposal has been met with stern opposition by the Texas High School Coaches Association and the UIL, the governing body of extra-curricular programs for 1,300 schools in the state. As a result, Patrick tried to appease his political and coaching opponents by removing football and basketball from the bill.

Despite the alteration, UIL athletic director Mark Cousins, who was officially named to the position April 20, has not changed his stance about the inclusion of members from the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which has about 250 schools.

“I think you’ll find our member schools support (private school participation) rules as they are,” Cousins said.

The UIL amended its rules in 2003, granting Dallas Jesuit and Strake Jesuit membership after the schools were forced to sponsor independent athletic programs once the Texas Christian Interscholastic League folded in 2000.

The bill is SB1214. My first thought was that it would likely pass the House if it can make it onto the calendar – no guarantee at this late date – but the vote for and against it was bipartisan, so who knows. I don’t feel strongly about this bill one way or another. If the two Jesuit schools above could be absorbed into the UIL without the world coming to an end, I doubt anything horrible will happen if this passes. For sure, as long as football and basketball are excluded it’s probably the case that most people won’t notice the change. But I didn’t go to high school here, so maybe I’m all wrong about this. What do you think?

Scaling back steroid testing in the schools

Yes, yes, yes.

House and Senate budget negotiators will decide in the coming weeks whether the [$3 million a year program to test high school student athletes for steroids] continues — and its scope and pace.

“It’s not needed. House members think that we should not do the test at all,” said House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. Pitts will lead House members in their negotiations with Senate counterparts.

A scaled-down program is possible, Pitts said. And that would satisfy Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, who sponsored the steroid-testing legislation two years ago.

He prefers a scaled-down program where random tests for steroid use are given to students who participate in football, track, weight lifting and wrestling, sports in which steroid abuse is most prevalent, as opposed to volleyball, for example.

“No, we don’t have a whole lot of people that we caught, but the whole idea was for them not to use it,” Flynn said. “It was a fairness and health issue, and we think we raised that level of awareness to a bar where it’s been successful.”

As noted, in the story, a grand total of 11 athletes, out of 29,000 tested, came up positive. Both Rep. Flynn and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who was also quoted in support of this foolishness, have given all kinds of silly justifications for this in the past as well. Even Governor Perry supports scaling this back. Now three million bucks is chump change in the context of the budget. Killing this program isn’t going to achieve any real savings. That’s not the point. Steroid testing was done for a reason, whether you believe it was deterrence or fact-finding or something else, and the results have shown that it’s not needed. We should pay heed to those results and take the next logical step.

Steroid madness

Can we please declare victory in the war on steroids in Texas high schools and move on to something more productive?

Only 11 Texas high school students proved positive for steroid use among nearly 29,000 students tested in the last year, leading some lawmakers and others to suggest a downsizing of the $3-million-a-year program.

Nearly all of the students who tested positive during the yearlong program were football players or wrestlers and all were male. Those tested were randomly selected from an estimated 740,000 student athletes.

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Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said the governor “would be open” to a scaled down steroid testing program.

Many Texas athletic coaches have said they believe education works better than an expensive testing and continue to question the merit of testing for steroids but not for recreational drugs.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a main backer of the steroid-testing program approved by lawmakers two years ago, wants to continue the project but is receptive to changes.

“It is too early to determine what, if any, adjustments should be made to the program, but as with any important initiative like this, I am always looking for ways to make improvements,” Dewhurst said.

Some high school coaches believe the money could be better spent.

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The test results, showing a positive steroid result of only .03 percent indicates, “it’s not quite the epidemic that a lot of people feared it was,” said D.W. Rutledge, executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

“There are a lot of concerns we have that this money could be used on, one being childhood obesity, another being recreational drugs,” Rutledge said.

The first round of testing, done in the spring, netted three violators. Would someone please explain to me how this is a good use of our financial resources? I didn’t see how it was then, and I don’t see it now. I think we’ve clearly demonstrated that steroids are not a problem in Texas’ high schools, at least not a $3 million one. Surely this money can be put to better use.