I always get excited for the biennial February event known as UIL realignment.
It’s hard for me to sleep the night before because I’ve thought long and hard about the possibilities. It’s a result of countless attempts to try and predict the new lineups of high school sports districts in the months following the release of updated school enrollment lists.
Sometimes, I’m spot on with my predictions. Sometimes, I’m totally off. Regardless of the accuracy of my projections, they’re always fun to do, and I’ll probably do them for a third straight time.
When I wake up on UIL Realignment Day, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I’m not a morning person, but this is one of the few times that I jump out of bed when it’s dark outside. I can’t wait to cover the event at the local Education Service Center, open the latest UIL district packet, and find out who teams in my coverage area will match up with in their playoff races.
The moment athletic directors and coaches get their hands on the packets is when the fun begins. After their speed read through the packet finds important district information, they rush around the crowded room and talk to enough coaches to fill out a complete non-district schedule and finalize the dates and times of district contests.
We may be a few months away from knowing the school sizes, classifications and districts for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years, but that didn’t stop UIL realignment from being in the news at this weekend’s Texas High School Coaches Association Coaching School and Convention in San Antonio. It came in the form of the UIL’s proposal of possibly adding a 7A classification in the future.
I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the moment I heard about it, and even did some research to see who might be moving up or staying put. I couldn’t be more excited, and there’s no guarantee it’s going to happen.
The change wouldn’t occur immediately, but has a lot of support. More and more large schools are scheduled to open in the coming years and that will influence the makeup of every classification heading forward.
You’re probably wondering how the UIL would look with a seventh classification. The influx of new large schools would likely affect 6A, 5A and 4A members the most. The UIL already adjusts classification enrollment lines when school populations change, but the rising number of new campus openings and those scheduled for the not-too-distant future have resulted in vastly different sized schools calling the same classification home.
The growing divide between teams with more roster depth and squads with less can greatly affect who wins and loses games.
Currently, the biggest gaps are in the three highest classifications. Schools with student bodies of at least 2,220 students are classified as 6A along with the near-7,000 person Allen High School. 5A has a 1,009 gap from largest to smallest member and 4A’s difference is 694. Compare that to 3A, 2A and 1A, where it’s only 284, 124 and 96 respectively.
The UIL has adjusted to Texas’ population growth throughout time, so another expansion would fall in line with its past moves. It allows schools of similar sizes to be in the running for the same prizes, whether it be a championship or playoff berth. It’s why 6A was added before the 2014-2015 school year and 5A Division I and 5A Division II replaced 5A for football-only competition prior to the 2018-2019 school year.
It’s also why I’m all in on 7A.