Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Texas senate passes bill allowing private schools to join UIL
AUSTIN — The Texas Senate voted 22-7 Friday to allow private schools to join the University Interscholastic League with two major exceptions — football and basketball.
Private schools can join the public school league for sports such as baseball, soccer, wrestling, volleyball and track, and academic competition like debate and one-act play.
Two large Catholic schools (Jesuit and Houston Strake Jesuit) already play football and basketball in the UIL and the bill would allow them to keep playing.
Exempting football and basketball was necessary to pass the bill, said Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who has tried to force the UIL to open up to private schools since 2007.
“That’s where all the opponents have come from, all those football coaches out there,” Patrick said, adding he hopes to eventually add football and basketball in a couple of years if he can get this bill passed by the House and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.
“Students who are in private and parochial schools, their parents are paying school taxes. In my view, it’s discrimination to not let those students participate. This is not the end of the world. It’s just new competition,” Patrick said.
Texas is one of a handful of states with separate athletic championships for public and private schools. The UIL has about 1,300 members. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, has about 250 members.
“We really are happy with what we have in TAPPS,” said Fort Worth Nolan athletic director and football coach Steve Prud’homme. “That said, we really enjoy competing against the public schools throughout the area. We’ve built great relationships with the public schools around here. It’s not like we don’t play them already.”
UIL member schools have fought to keep public and private schools separate over concerns private schools will able to recruit athletes. The UIL has battled lawsuits and legislative pressure to bring them together for years.
The Texas High School Coaches Association has been a fierce opponent. Coaches association executive director D.W. Rutledge, who testified against the bill in committee, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. UIL athletic director Mark Cousins, declined to comment on the bill.
Many of those (private) schools don’t even play football, Patrick said. Those that do could continue playing football in TAPPS or as independents and join UIL for other sports and competition, he said.