University Interscholastic League (UIL)
Monday, February 1, 2010 was the release date for the realignment of all Texas Public School districts that compete in football and basketball. It is certainly one of the most anticipated events in the world of extracurricular activities in the state. There are always surprises, disappointments and relief among member schools, depending on how the “rubber band” is stretched to group new districts. In my 30 years of involvement with this process, the one thing I know to be true is that nothing is sacred or exempt from change.
This year the Conference AA districts experienced a whole sale change in the process of realignment. The football districts were split into large and small school district at the start of the season instead of at the beginning of the playoff process. This was approved by the Conference AA Superintendents in a referendum. The vote was pretty much along the lines of big schools were opposed to the measure and small schools were in favor on the change. By approving this measure all districts knew there would be extended travel and the elimination of 32 teams from the playoff system due to the fact that only two schools will be allowed into the playoffs from each district. This action was taken as an attempt to remedy the inequity of very small enrollment AA schools having to compete against schools with almost twice as many students in high school. This disparity exists in each of the five classifications but Conference AA was the only one to approve the measure to create two divisions.
So, what’s the problem? The superintendents approved the referendum and the UIL put it in place, end of story. The answer to that question is simple. The problem is not with football and the approved measure, the problem is with all the “unintended consequences” that will befall the AA districts in every other area of competition. With the release of the new football districts, the UIL also released the new basketball districts that do not include the same schools as football. Before April 15, 2010, the UIL will release the remaining spring athletic and academics districts. These new districts can and most likely will be different than basketball. Conference AA schools are looking at competition in anywhere from four to six different alignments, having four to six different rules committees, limited to no possibility of combining travel between male and female sports (players or fans) and no consistency in the ability to work as a group of schools through out the year to provide a quality experience for all students.
I am, once again, very disappointed in the lack of concern the UIL shows for the overall well being of sports and academic competition for Texas Public Schools. If the plan of large and small schools was so important for football at the AA level, why is not important for volleyball, basketball, debate, track, and all the sports in AAA-AAAAA? Conference A schools have a unique set of circumstances that require this type of multiple alignments. In football Conference A schools can have no football, six-man football and 11-man football which can not be combined. Many schools do not play volleyball of one of the other sports, which again presents a need to have different alignments. These circumstances do not exist in any large scale in AA schools. There is no need to place the extra burden of multiple districts on Conference AA. History clearly shows us that once the UIL makes a decision it is next to impossible to create a climate for dialog and/or change. It is my hope that after we endure the next two years of multiple rules meeting and tremendous increases in travel and split crowds, change will come.
I have always believed that you should not “gripe” about and issue without having a possible solution in mind. I have two. First, let the big and small football district alignments stand for all sports. This will create a more equitable size of school situation for all involved. In so doing, there will have to be an adjustment to the playoff system that allows three teams to enter the playoff in all sports. This too, has its own set of issues with byes created in the bracket, but all sports except football have been using this system for years. Second, leave football alignments as it is and create one district alignment for all other extracurricular UIL activities. Two committees and sets of meetings are better than six (according to my understanding of math). Either of these choices is infinitely more appealing than the reality of where we are today.