Written by Corbett Smith
UIL legislative council OKs limiting full-contact football practices to 90 minutes per week
Atypical of its normal June meetings, the University Interscholastic League’s Legislative Council convened a full council meeting Tuesday with its member superintendents approving three measures put in motion in April by the league’s medical advisory committee.
The main proposal will limit football programs to 90 minutes of full-contact, game-speed practices per week during the regular season and playoffs.
As with all the proposals passed Tuesday, it will go into effect Aug. 1 if signed into action by Texas commissioner of education Michael Williams.
The emergency meeting was called to address the contact issue before the end of the 83rd Texas Legislature’s special session. Over the past few months, the league has worked in conjunction with State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Galveston, drawing up the amendment to closely mimic Lucio’s House Bill 887, which limited programs to one full-contact practice per week in hopes of reducing concussion risks.
In turn, Lucio and Bonnen pulled their bill off the floor before the end of the regular session.
Still, the tension between the state house and the UIL was palatable, laid bare by impassioned statements from UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison and the league’s executive director Charles Breithaupt.
“We have a lot of friends in the legislature, a lot of support in the legislature, but there is a belief by some that they can do this better than you can,” Harrison told the council members.
Harrison said an unprecedented 19 bills that targeted some aspect of the UIL were placed in front of the Senate and House during the regular session, with two passing both houses and awaiting Gov. Rick Perry’s final approval.
One bill — House Bill 1775 — will essentially end the protracted legal battle between the league and the Texas Association of Sports Officials, something the league supports.
However, House Bill 1675 — propelled by a long-time critic of the UIL, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston — “will put the UIL under a lengthy and expensive review process bringing the league’s finances, management and policies under the scrutiny of the state lawmakers.” It is a process that Breithaupt admitted “no one wants.”
“We also have to understand that they have the ability to do whatever they choose to do,” Breithaupt said of the Legislature. “But I hope that we get a fair opportunity to tell our story. I think if we do anyone who sees the process sees that it’s a fair process.”
The other two proposals passed were:
The UIL will include an awareness form about sudden cardiac arrest into its athletic packet giving information and resources to parents and guardians and requiring their signature before a student can compete in a UIL athletic event.
The committee also voted to require cheerleading to be subject to concussion management and prevention guidelines already in place for UIL-sponsored activities, as well as mandating coaches and sponsors be required to complete safety training.
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