High School: Realignment

FORT WORTH, Texas – For the first time since the mid-1980s, the UIL surveyed Texas high schools this offseason on preferred ways to cut costs in athletics, and the answers surprised UIL administrators.

The majority of the schools that responded, in every individual sport, gave no inclination toward playing fewer games in each sport’s season, UIL deputy director director Jamey Harrison said Monday during the THSCA convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The slight majority was in favor of cutting the amount of tournaments a team could participate in a season.

A mid-sized school district could be sending two seventh-grade boys and girls basketball teams, a boys and girls ninth-grade team, boys and girls JV teams and boys and girls varsity teams all to tournaments on the same weekend, putting strain on the time the students have in class that week and money spent on traveling and food for the players, UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said.

“I think our school superintendents are right saying that’s where we need a little relief, and it keeps kids in school a little be more, which is our educational mission,” Breithaupt said.

Currently, the UIL only sets a maximum number of games teams can play in a season, leaving individual schools in charge of cutting games for cost or any other reason. The only change that could be made is to reduce the maximum amount of games each team is allowed to play to even the playing field with schools that would like to cut costs.

Other notes from Monday's press conference:

* The UIL’s new concussion protocol will go into effect this athletic year for all sports. All athletes who show any sign of a head injury must be cleared by a medical professional before they can start a recovery process that will eventually get them back on the field. The recovery process begins with light conditioning, moving to sport-specific conditioning then full practice before they are allowed to be active in a game.

* A helmet reconditioning policy will go into effect in 2012, which mandates that schools report the age of the helmets still in use.

* All enrollment information used for reclassification and realignment will now be submitted to the UIL electronically. This will enable the UIL to release more of the figures they gather to the public, providing more transparency into how schools are aligned. Also, any school can choose to opt up into a larger classification for any reason. Previously, this was only an option for schools that were hindered by travel.

Sherman, Denison appeal realignment

February, 12, 2010
Sherman and Denison formally appealed the UIL’s realignment this week, citing excessive travel times related to facing its new district opponents.

The two schools were played in District 13-4A with Sulphur Springs, Mount Pleasant and Texarkana Texas High. They are currently grouped with McKinney and Frisco schools and were grouped with Denton schools before that.

“There’s another solution that makes more sense,” Denison athletic director Cody White said. “Kids are going to have to get out early. They’re going to have to go school after getting home at 2 a.m.”

In the letter of appeal, Sherman and Denison suggested swapping places with Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath, which were grouped in District 10-4A with McKinney and Wylie schools.

And while Sherman and Denison’s travel distance to Mount Pleasant and Texarkana isn’t too much farther than Rockwall’s, the travel time is much greater as Rockwall would have a straight shot down I-20 while Sherman and Denison would take U.S. Route 82, a slower two-lane highway.

The UIL will hear appeals on Feb. 18, but White doesn’t expect the ruling to be overturned.

“I doubt anything is going to happen, but at least we let them know there should be better solutions,” White said.

Denton Guyer moves up to Class 5A

February, 1, 2010
Denton Guyer won't be making a third consecutive trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.

The Wildcats finished nine students ahead of the Class 5A cutoff at 2,074 and will move up after reaching the 4A semis two years in a row.

Coach John Walsh believes his talent-laden team won't have trouble competing at the 5A level, but its prospects for a championship run have diminished as it goes from one of the biggest 4A schools to one of the smallest in 5A.

"Someone told me we were the second-smallest 5A in the state," Walsh said.

Guyer's path closely mirrors that of rival Denton Ryan. After appearing in four straight state title games from 2000-03, Ryan went 5A for two years and came back down to 4A after the opening of Guyer brought its attendance back down.

While Ryan made the playoffs both 5A years, it didn't find its championship form thanks in part to Southlake Carroll, which
handed Ryan its only two losses in the 2004 season.

Walsh expects Guyer to drop back to 4A after Denton ISD redistricts, but for now it has to deal with Ryan's old nemesis, Carroll, which joins Guyer in District 7-5A along with Coppell, Keller, Keller Central, Keller Fossil Ridge, Justin Northwest and Saginaw.

"Southlake has obviously been the class of Texas football for some time now," Walsh said. "That adds some extra excitement. We welcome big games. Not every kid gets to play in atmospheres like that. The Guyer boys are going to get to."

Click here for the area 4A and 5A districts in the new alignment.

Carrollton schools join Frisco in 9-4A

February, 1, 2010
Carrollton Creekview's drop to Class 4A and the debut of Frisco Heritage allowed the UIL to fill out District 9-4A with all Frisco and Carrollton schools at Monday's realignment.

Creekview, Carrollton Newman Smith and Carrollton R.L. Turner join Frisco, Frisco Centennial, Frisco Liberty, Frisco Wakeland and Heritage, which will play its first varsity schedule in 2010, in a rare scenario that's convenient for everyone involved.

"Everybody is pretty happy with the district," said Liberty's Galen Zimmerman, who participated in realignment for the first time as a head coach. "It's a very competitive district. It was a very interesting experience."

While it worked out for the Carrollton and Frisco ISDs, it couldn't have been much worse for Sherman and Denison, two schools that were pushed out of 9-4A.

Usually paired with Metroplex schools, Sherman and Denison will make numerous trips east down I-30 to play new District 13-4A foes Sulphur Springs, Mount Pleasant and Texarkana Texas High. Greenville and Royse City are also in 13-4A.

Frisco teams won't miss making the trek north to face tough Sherman and Denison teams, though.

"Those are two big time traditional powers," said Zimmerman, whose Liberty team will play Denison in Zero Week.

Click here for the area 4A and 5A districts in the new alignment.

Wylie barely drops below 4A cutoff

February, 1, 2010
Wylie, one of the biggest question marks heading into Monday’s UIL realignment, dropped down to Class 4A, but just barely.

The school turned in an attendance number of 2,061. The cutoff for 5A was 2,065, a number that dropped from the previous realignment for the first time since 1990.

“I was very happy that we weren’t 5A,” said Wylie football coach Bill Howard.

The drop in classification is a lucky break for a school that will continue to see its attendance drop in the wake of the opening of Wylie East. Next year, Wylie’s seniors will be the only class that isn’t split with East. East won’t play with seniors in 2010, its first year with a varsity schedule.

“Within one year, we’ll be under 1,900, maybe under 1,800,” Howard said. “People need to realize that we won’t be that big next year. We’ll be one of the smallest schools in our district in two years.”

Both Wylie and East were placed in District 10-4A, which includes Highland Park, McKinney, McKinney North, Richardson Pearce, Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath.

“We got put in a highly competitive 4A district, as tough as any one in the state in 4A,” Howard said. “Most of the schools in our new district were in the playoffs last year.”

Click here for the area 4A and 5A districts in the new alignment.

Realignment reality: Some long bus rides

January, 29, 2010
It is nervous time for high schools on the eastern and western borders of Dallas and Fort Worth.

The University Interscholastic League's biennial realignment announcement on Monday can translate to two years of long bus rides for the unlucky.

Shrinking enrollments in East and West Texas coupled with growth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have put more area schools on the travel bubble in recent realignments.

Not only are the trips an inconvenience, they are costly with the escalation of fuel prices. Gate receipts tend to be smaller because fewer fans are willing to travel.

Mesquite's Class 5A schools, Horn, North Mesquite and Mesquite High, have become very familiar with I-20 trips to the Piny Woods over the last three alignments.

One-by-one, East Texas' traditional rivals (Texarkana Texas High, Marshall, Longview) began to drop from 5A to 4A. It left the two Tyler schools looking back in the direction of Mesquite for 5A competition.

One of the unknowns is the UIL enrollment cutoff numbers for each classification. Those numbers change for every realignment.

DeSoto was less than thrilled about being plunked into the Mesquite-Tyler district at the last realignment.

School districts with only one or two schools are more vulnerable to being placed in a travel district.

In the last realignment, the UIL placed 10 West Texas schools in District 2-5A, creating a district that spanned from Amarillo to San Angelo. Earning one of four playoff spots in a 10-school district is quite different than in a six-team district.

Expected changes in West Texas could have ripple effects all the way to Tarrant County schools. And good luck for anyone trying to get the information ahead of Monday's 9 a.m. release. The UIL guards it like a state secret.