Texas schools carry apprehension into kickoff amid pandemic

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Houston Baptist running back Ean Beek (2) takes a hand-off from quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) during the first half of an NCAA football game against UTEP in El Paso, Texas. Houston Baptist still had three games scheduled for its eighth football season when its FCS Southland Conference decided only a few weeks ago to not play league games this fall.  Even with expanded protocols and more costly virus testing, the Huskies are moving forward with their remaining games. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Houston Baptist running back Ean Beek (2) takes a hand-off from quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) during the first half of an NCAA football game against UTEP in El Paso, Texas. Houston Baptist still had three games scheduled for its eighth football season when its FCS Southland Conference decided only a few weeks ago to not play league games this fall. Even with expanded protocols and more costly virus testing, the Huskies are moving forward with their remaining games. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Houston Baptist still had three games scheduled for only its eighth football season when the FCS Southland Conference decided a few weeks ago to not play league games this fall.

Then came the expanded protocols and increased costly testing necessary to play upper-division schools during a pandemic.

“You begin to think, ‘Is any of this worth it?’" HBU athletic director Steve Moniaci said.

It was for the Huskies, who kicked off their season Saturday night at North Texas.

With senior standouts returning at all the offensive skill positions after a school-record five wins last season, the games get players who Moniaci said “obviously want to compete” on the field in September before an expected spring conference schedule. And the school fulfills contractual obligations for games at Texas Tech of the Big 12 and Conference USA teams North Texas and Louisiana Tech.

“It is about the health and well-being of our student-athletes, and everybody else associated with the program. ... You balance the risk-reward of the whole thing, and I still think we're doing the right thing by playing," Moniaci said, leading up to the game. “But I'm not going to feel comfortable about any of it until we're done playing all these games."

Houston Baptist had a 300-mile bus ride to Denton, Texas, for the season opener. Everyone wore masks, like they had through fall practices, from the time they gathered to load onto the buses Friday until getting into their hotel rooms.

The Huskies have about 100 players and staff on the trip, and all went through COVID-19 testing three times this week — each individual test costs the private school about $80. The Southland Conference would require only once-a-week testing, but the Huskies have to follow the rules of their opponents' conferences.