ELLIS COUNTY — Because of a five-letter acronym, fans of Midlothian Heritage High School and Red Oak High School girls' soccer had to wait 24 more hours to know if their teams would earn regional tournament berths.
They would have to wait because of Thursday's postseason rescheduling due to the week's State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness — better known as STAAR — program testing.
According to a Texas Education Agency regulation found in section 33.0812 of the TEA and UIL 2016-17 Side-by-Side Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities Manual, "the State Board of Education by rule shall prohibit participation in a University Interscholastic League area, regional, or state competition on Monday through Thursday of the school week in which the primary administration of assessment instruments occurs."
"This has been a rule for many years and it's in our TEA side-by-side manual that has UIL rules side-by-side with TEA laws," said UIL media coordinator Kate Hector to the Denton Record-Chronicle. "The reason our calendar has this as an optional day to play is because schools can request a waiver of their testing dates. If schools weren't testing this week, today would be an optional playing date. Most schools are testing this week."
The Birdville High School and Denton High School area round matchup, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Argyle Liberty Christian School but moved to 6 p.m. Friday at BISD Fine Arts and Athletics Complex, were only a few of the school's affected in the North Dallas Area.
While the 24-hour difference in playing time won't affect some teams, the TEA/UIL guideline moved Red Oak and Midlothian's games either near or into Ellis County's borders.
The Lady Hawks, which were originally scheduled to face Dallas Molina High School at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Jesse Owens Sports Complex's Kincaide Stadium, changed venues to DeSoto High School and will be moderate affected. Dallas Molina is 11.6 miles away from Kincaide Stadium but 15.7 miles away from DeSoto's Eagle Field.
Red Oak's girls will now face the Lady Jaguars at 5:30 p.m. Friday 10 miles away from their home at Billy Goodloe Stadium. Midlothian Heritage, which will essentially play a home game because of a coin flip, will face Argyle High School at 5 p.m. Friday at M.I.S.D. Multi-purpose Stadium.
"The UIL gave [Thursday] as an option as well as the 31st and the first [of April], but last night Coach [Steve] Keasler got advised we couldn't play based on TEA rules," Jaguar Head Coach Gerald Slovacek said about the change in locale and date. "Stadiums were going to be hard to come by since there were already a bunch of games scheduled for Friday, so we decided to flip for home. We were already going to have to drive to Southlake and had no problem going to Argyle if we had to. We got lucky and will play at home in front of what is hopefully a big crowd."
His comments closely mirror the statement released by MISD that said, despite the March 30 to April 1 parameters given by the UIL, the games had to be rescheduled due to state testing regardless if the testing ended in the early morning — hours before the game's kickoff.
Slovacek said the coaches in the area scheduled the area round games per the dates that were stated on the UIL calendar. He, as well as coaches like Adam Prachyl of Red Oak that had chosen the 30th as their playoff date, were informed of the regulation violation by their respective athletic coordinators and a letter sent by the UIL.
The annual athletics calendars are set by UIL staff.
Midlothian Heritage was originally scheduled to play the Lady Eagles at 7 p.m. Thursday at Southlake's Dragon Stadium, which is 47.3 miles — and nearly an hour's drive — from the school's front door. Argyle traded a 17.3-mile and 27-minute trip for a 57.6-mile and one hour and 18-minute drive to the heart of Midlothian.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.