After week one of the season last month, it appeared high school football may have been guilty of a false start. Pictures and videos began circulating online showing big crowds with little social distancing and a lack of masks.
That prompted the University Interscholastic League to issue a letter to districts warning them failure to enforce COVID-19 distancing restrictions could result in sanctions or a shutdown of the season.
Class 4A and lower have been playing since the last weekend in August, but the bigger schools of 5A and 6A are getting ready to start their seasons starting Sept. 24.
Fort Worth ISD will limit crowd capacity to 35% and have visual markings of where fans can sit at Farrington Field and Clark Stadium.
At Allen’s 18,000-seat Eagle Stadium, they will only seat fans every other row and game participants will be given priority for tickets.
But the pandemic and reduced access for fans has opened the doors for high school sports to be streamed online. For this season, the UIL decided to lift their ban on Friday night broadcasts of Texas high school football regular-season games. In previous years, games on Thursday and Saturday could be broadcast or streamed but Friday nights were off-limits.
That has put Bobby Stautzenberger’s production company in high demand.
“It has been a little overwhelming to be honest with you,” said Stautzenberger. “We have more demand than we can meet."
Texas Sports Productions is based in San Antonio and in past years would broadcast a few Thursday and Saturday games a week plus playoffs. Now that Friday nights are open, they are getting interest from districts across the state and have been busy buying the additional equipment and hiring the manpower needed for the broadcasts.
Stautzenberger said they now have plans to stream more than 100 games this season on TexasSportsProductions.com, including all home games for Allen High School.
Texas Sports Productions prides themselves on high-quality broadcasts with multiple cameras, graphics and instant replay. However, Stautzenberger expects to see districts stream sports in a lot of different ways.
“I think you are going to see a wide variety of quality levels with this. Obviously, streaming on Facebook with a cell phone is not ideal.”
And it could all have an impact on the future of high school sports.
“The big question is whether this will continue beyond this season,” he said.