As game postponements plague the NFL as it deals with COVID-19 outbreaks around the league, there were no limitations placed on this week’s UIL state championship games at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Recent developments with the omicron strain of COVID-19 have placed pro and college sports in the spotlight, as at least 20 men’s basketball games and 36 women’s basketball games had been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 protocols as of Friday afternoon and the NHL had shut down three teams for at least another week or two. But Saturday, the Class 5A Division II state championship game between South Oak Cliff and Liberty Hill drew 45,769 and the 6A Division I final after that drew 42,544 to watch Galena Park North Shore beat Duncanville.
“We stayed in close contact with the folks here at the facility to see what they were hearing,” UIL deputy executive director Jamey Harrison said. “Being an NFL facility, they have access to a lot of the latest information and how to respond for big crowds. There are always conversations, but we felt good going in that we would be able to have a regular event and crowds like you see today.
“We were happy that we have had a much closer to normal year so far this year.”
That wasn’t possible last season, as the UIL had to limit crowd sizes.
“It’s some of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make,” Harrison said. “This is such a special experience for families and communities and for the kids in these games, so we certainly hated to do it. But we needed to work with the facility to make sure we were able to have the games. That is what’s most important.”
Is there anything the UIL is worried about for winter and spring sports?
“We’ll just have to see,” Harrison said. “We’re worried, of course, and have been since the summer. So far, our schools have responded really well and we feel good about where we are.”
Harrison even got to watch his son play in Saturday’s opening game of a tripleheader, as Jackson Harrison started at center for Liberty Hill.