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Coaches split on whether Friday night football games should be on TV

Breaking from pigskin tradition, a Friday night high school football game to kick off the season will be televised live in Texas.

The game on Sept. 1 will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest, the TV partner for the University Interscholastic League. But while the UIL’s legislative council on Tuesday passed a motion to televise one game, some football coaches in Central Texas are split on whether more games should be televised in the future.

Some don’t want any games televised because that might entice fans to watch the games at home. Others say publicity generated by having games on TV would generate more interest in the sport.

“I’m all for our kids getting a chance to be on television,” said Austin High coach Mike Rosenthal. “At the end of the day, the kids just think it’s a normal game. Coaches have to do a little more media and game prep, but I don’t see the downside to this.”

At the legislative council meeting on Tuesday, UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison stressed this is “not a stepping stone” to increase televised games. There will be one or two games televised on Sept. 1 depending on whether they fit a prime-time schedule. Features on iconic players and coaches who shaped high school football in Texas would be included in the telecast.

There has been no decision on what game or games will be featured.

Among the interested spectators at the meeting was D.W. Rutledge, the executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association who coached Converse Judson to a 198-31-5 record from 1984 to 2000.

Televising games weekly, Rutledge said, “is not a scenario we want to see. I want to protect the sanctity of high school football in the community. We don’t want people to stay home and watch games on TV rather than seeing the kids in their community play in person.”

Rutledge added that ESPN has shown interest in televising Friday night football in Texas, but was turned down. Games on Thursdays and Saturdays, though, can be televised.

Burnet coach Kurt Jones and Hendrickson’s Chip Killian are among the area coaches who support Rutledge’s point of view.

“Friday night football should be about the entire community coming out to support players, the band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the trainers, the school,” Jones said. “You can’t do that while sitting at home watching your TV.”

Westwood’s Anthony Wood said if games become televised on a regular basis, “I would like to see them blacked out in the local area unless there’s a sellout crowd.”

In Central Texas, KBVO regularly televises local games on Thursday nights. Last year the station televised 11 games.

Connally coach Jason Cecil and Vandegrift’s Drew Sanders said games on KBVO have not hurt attendance at their games.

“From my experience, we’ve had better crowds on Thursday nights after fans learned they were going to be televised,” Cecil said. “I also feel like our kids’ intensity level increases a little bit when they know it will be on TV.”

The legislative council also addressed other topics:

  • UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said stricter penalties for athletes and coaches involved in fighting will be a major topic of discussion before the council reconvenes in October. He described fighting as a “signifcant problem,” adding there were 16 fights were reported to the UIL offices last season.
  • The legislative committee said it will study a proposal from Round Rock baseball coach John Carter to give the higher seeds in the first round of the playoffs the option of playing at home or decide on the length of the series.
  • A proposal by Wendy Gumbert, manager of Texas Regional Paralympic Sport, to add track and field events at the state meet for ambulatory athletes will be considered. The UIL includes events for wheelchair athletes at state. Seth Boquez, a junior from San Antonio O’Connor whose left leg was amputated below the knee as a small child, spoke in favor of adding the events.
  • Water polo was the only sport the UIL considered, but there are not enough schools participating to have it sanctioned this year, according to the policy committee. The sport will be “monitored” by the UIL for consideration in the future, Harrison said.
  • The committee took no action on proposals to add gymnastics, disc golf, fencing, indoor track and skeet/trap/sporting clays as UIL-sanctioned sports. The last sport to become sanctioned by the UIL was wrestling in 2002.

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