What options do UIL and TAPPS coaches have when inclement weather disrupts the Friday night lights?
Prestonwood Christian head coach Donnie Yantis wanted his team to make the most of its non-district schedule before beginning the most demanding part of its season. Various circumstances prevented that from happening Friday night.
Prestonwood Christian hosted Little Elm in a highly anticipated non-district matchup after Little Elm and Tulane quarterback Kellen Tasby committed to TAPPS School in the offseason.
With Little Elm leading 28-14 at halftime, both teams went to the locker room — but neither returned to the field that night to finish the game.
Severe weather hit the Dallas area around 8 p.m. Friday, leading to weather-related delays, cancellations and postponements across the region. With rain expected to fall again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week, teams could face similar dilemmas.
Just 10 minutes into the mandatory 30-minute delay, Yantis said, Little Elm coach Joe Castillo told him he was taking his players and leaving and that they had no intention of playing the rest of the game. Castillo did not respond Dallas Morning News“Interview requests.
“We had to agree to a no contest, which I was not in favor of,” Yantis said. “I wanted to finish the game and get the kids training. They didn’t want to play on Saturday because they didn’t want to get anyone hurt, and they also had to get ready for the zone, which is most important.”
With one coach wanting to appeal or postpone while the other wants to call the final, Yantis said the Dallas officiating staff was involved but would not let Little Elm forfeit the game. Ultimately, the two coaches decided that declaring a no contest was the only viable option so that neither team’s record would be affected by the first half of play.
“I had no choice,” Yantis said. “He didn’t want to play the game. He didn’t want to wait. We didn’t even get through the first 30 minutes of delay. I’m very disappointed because this is not kid-friendly.”
“I just wanted to play, regardless of whether we won or lost. We were 14th down. That was his advantage.”
Inclement weather rarely occurs during Friday Night Lights in North Texas, with precipitation resulting in area-wide delays or cancellations no more than once or twice per season on average. But the logistical nightmare Friday night left many coaches wondering what their options are in those rare scenarios.
The UIL and TAPPS rules are nearly identical when it comes to inclement weather. Both governing bodies follow NCAA football rules, which give coaches four options if a game is suspended before the end of the fourth period and cannot be resumed: 1) resume the game at a later date, 2) end the game with a scheduled final. The result is, 3) the game is lost or 4) it is declared a no contest.
In district play, district bylaws typically determine how coaches must conduct themselves. For example, Lake Highlands and Highland Park faced off in their District 7-6A opener Friday night, which was delayed hours. They tried to resume play around 11 p.m., but were eventually delayed. UIL rules prevented them from resuming competition after midnight, causing them to postpone the match until 2 o’clock the next afternoon.
“The district guidelines that the state governs, we have to finish the district competition,” Lake Highlands coach Corey Campbell said. “There’s a lot of other things to do with tie-breaks, deferred points, match-points, all those little things that have to be done.”
Campbell and Highland Park head coach Randy Allen had to agree on a game time the next day, the referee crews to replace the original group of referees that were not available and the amount of warm-up time before the restart.
Only three district games have been completed with 48 minutes to play. Richland’s 56-0 win was called a sunset win at halftime. Wylie’s 49-0 win over South Garland was the final with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Mansfield Timberview vs. WT White was also ruled a game with Timberview leading 27-7 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
Policies vary from district to district across D-FW, with some allowing games to be finished after halftime or three-quarters of play and others — 7-6A, for example — requiring the entire game to be completed for it to count.
While most teams are now playing district, several last week faced non-district opponents and will face some smaller schools again this weekend. Both the UIL and TAPPS rules stipulate that in the event of inclement weather at an out-of-district competition, the two schools’ athletic directors and coaches must come to an agreement on one of four options — and if they can’t, the governing bodies will meet to determine the best outcome given the circumstances.
In the case of Little Elm and Prestonwood Christian, there is no primary governing body. The same goes for South Oak Cliff and Episcopal Diocese, which will play Friday night. If schools from different governing bodies cannot agree, there is no set rule on what happens, but TAPPS Associate Director Steve Prudhomme said TAPPS and UIL would likely meet to agree and determine the appropriate outcome.
“Hopefully they can come to a solution, but if not, they can contact their governing bodies, and the governing bodies can contact each other,” Prudhomme said. “We get along well with the UIL staff.”
Friday night alone saw 22 games either called outright or declared a no contest due to inclement weather. Dozens of others were postponed and eventually finished. The UIL said there is no statewide rule on how much of a game must be completed before a contest is ruled final. No Dallas-area game was called for the final game before halftime, and any game called early was at least a double-possession game.
Arlington Seguin and Aubrey’s non-region game was one that ended in the first half with Seguin leading 21-0. Opry head coach Keith Ivey said he and Seguin coach Joe Gordon mutually agreed to call it quits since it was a non-district game, both teams were dealing with injuries, Seguin will start district play on Friday and the 57-mile drive is from Arlington to Opry.
“We could tell we weren’t going to get it anytime that night,” he said. “I don’t think they were ready to drive on Saturday because of the distance and that would put them off getting ready for their first district game that follows on Friday. It was a trade-off.”
“I honestly left it up to Coach Gordon given the fact that they were ahead. I felt like it was the right thing to do and the fair thing to do. If it were reversed or reversed, I think that would be the right thing to do.”
There is one major difference between the TAPPS and UIL rules. If a game is postponed, TAPPS coaches can agree to play on a Sunday while UIL schools are not allowed to play that day. However, only once or twice has a TAPPS football game been played on Sunday, according to Prud’homme. Both organizations also require five days between matches.
With coaches potentially facing those tough decisions again in Week 4, Prudhomme said last week was a learning experience for both governing bodies and coaches and prompted them to urge their coaches to prepare in advance so big decisions aren’t made in the heat of the game.
“We talk to schools about making sure they meet before the game and work out how things are going to go. This all needs to be understood before the game starts.” “Outside the region, we don’t care as much. It’s your best judgment as you move forward. Just make sure you treat each other well.”
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