The University Interscholastic League is giving an early Christmas present to coaches, school administrators, and fans of Texas high school football.
For some Texomaland schools, it could be a drop to an easier division in football sitting under the tree this morning. For others, it might be a lump of coal in the form of placement in a tougher group.
At 9 a.m., the UIL will announce the cutoff numbers for the 2014-16 reclassification and realignment. These numbers will outline the ranges of enrollment for each classification, including divisional cutoffs for football. In past realignments, these numbers were announced at the same time as the new districts.
The actual new districts won’t be announced until Feb. 3 for football and basketball, as is customary. Alignments for other activities will be released later in the spring.
This Texas two-step is the first time the UIL has released realignment information in this manner.
The purpose of the early release, according to the UIL, is “to increase transparency and awareness of the reclassification process” as well as to assist coaches in working out non-district schedules.
This morning’s announcement will also mark the unveiling of the UIL’s new six-class format. Since 1951, the UIL has split its membership into five classes based on enrollment size.
Each existing classification will have an “A” added to its title, thereby making the current Class 5A the new 6A, turning 4A into 5A, and so on. At the bottom, all schools with an enrollment at or below 104.9 students will be classified as 1A.
The new 5A and 6A classifications will continue their present system of splitting divisions only for the playoffs.
Sherman ISD submitted a high school enrollment of 1,784 students, an increase of 74 over the enrollment two years ago. That number will keep the Bearcats solidly in the new 5A, but head football coach Gary Kinne said in October the new numbers elsewhere in the region will give coaches an idea of what the new districts may look like.
“That’ll be interesting,” Kinne said. “We’ll at least know where we are because we’ll know what we turned in. We won’t know what everybody turned in, but as coaches we can call around and find out.”
One thing Kinne noted is the possibility that two teams in the same classification could agree to a non-district game and then find out that they are in different classifications, or even two classes apart.
Denison, which submitted an enrollment of 1,216, is expected to remain with Sherman in the new 5A.
Several other local schools will be looking carefully at the numbers to see mainly which football division they end up in. Nobody locally is expected to move up or down in classification this year.
Class 3A, which will become 4A in the new alignment, will split into big-school and small-school districts in football, the same way Class 2A and 1A have done it for the last four years. Gainesville, at 708, appears to be the only area school headed to a Division I district. The others — Anna, Celina, Bonham and Melissa — will almost certainly end up in Division II.
The current Class 2A membership appears to be status quo with the exception of Howe, which, at 302 students, could benefit from any rise in the divisional cutoff. The Bulldogs have competed in Division I each of the past four years.
In the current 1A, there’s a strong possibility that Wolfe City (150), Lindsay (149) and Collinsville (148) could drop into Division II. In the last realignment, the bottom of Division I was at exactly 150.
The biggest question that will be answered in this morning’s announcement is how many schools will be placed in Class 6A, which will have a cascading effect down the chain for the smaller classifications.
Over the last 10 years, that number has been fixed at 245 schools, but the UIL is changing that to a range of between 220 and 245 this year. The difference between the two numbers could place the dividing line between 5A and 6A anywhere between 2,100 and 2,180.
According to enrollment data gathered by Matt Stepp of theoldcoach.com, North Texas schools falling within this range include Highland Park (2,106 students), Dallas Sunset (2,148), Carrollton Turner (2,155), Richland (2,174) and Richardson Pearce (2,177).
Each of these schools could go either way, which alters the district puzzle locally — and potentially could affect where Sherman and Denison land.
The UIL outlined its classification procedures for 2A through 5A in a Nov. 22 press release. These classes will consist of a number of schools so that the enrollment ratio in grades 9-12 is approximately 2.0 between the largest and the smallest school in the classes. Six-man football schools will be classified as 1A, which again will consist of all schools with an enrollment of 104.9 and below.