SUBSCRIBE NOW

Enjoy all your local news and sports for less than 5¢ per day.

Subscribe Now

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — The possibility of Class 5A football having small-school and big-school divisions for district competition took the next step.

Currently, bigger and smaller 5A football teams play in the same districts but split up into separate divisions for the playoffs.

Class 5A superintendents will be surveyed about the split divisions for football districts this spring. Those results will be presented to the University Interscholastic League’s legislative council during a regular meeting June 16-17.

Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Rob O’Connor announced the UIL’s decision Feb. 6, and the UIL confirmed the survey Feb. 12.

O’Connor said he spoke with Charles Breithaupt, the UIL executive director, on Feb. 5. O’Connor has been talking to different Class 5A superintendents about possibly splitting into two divisions for several months.

“We’ve been in ongoing conversations about surveying the 5A superintendents to see if there’s enough support among the group,” he said. “(The results) will be taken back to the legislative council. If it’s in support, the legislative council will take that into consideration.”

Two years ago, the legislative council approved dividing Class 4A football when the superintendents voted 102-65 in favor of the split. That resulted in Burnet (with an enrollment of 924) playing in District 13-4A Division I and Llano (496) competing in District 13-4A Division II.

While both teams had to travel farther to play district contests and the Yellow Jackets missed the playoffs with an 0-4 record, Llano head football coach and athletic director Craig Slaughter believes playing in the new district made up of smaller schools gave his players a better chance for success.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs didn’t skip a beat. They were the co-district champions in their big school division and eventually lost 23-15 in the regional quarterfinals to Liberty Hill.

But these districts are for football only. In other sports, Llano and Burnet compete in District 25-4A with Taylor, Salado, Lampasas and Liberty Hill.

Both O’Connor and the UIL acknowledge a sense of urgency because realignment will be announced in February 2016.

Member schools must submit enrollment numbers for grades 8-11 in October. Those numbers and proximity aid the UIL in creating districts for school years 2016-17 and 2017-18.

“A decision has to be made before (the UIL) goes into the realignment process,” O’Connor said. “That’s why the summer is critical.”

UIL media coordinator Kate Hector said if the survey did not happen before the legislative council meets in June, there’s a likelihood the UIL will not survey the superintendents for another two years.

Currently, Marble Falls (1,125) competes in District 25-5A with:

  • Cedar Park (1,847), which played for the Class 5A Division II state championship to Ennis 38-35
  • Leander Vandegrift (1,879), which lost 76-35 to Temple in the Class 5A Division I semifinals
  • Georgetown East View (1,404), which lost 35-17 in the area round to Kerrville Tivy
  • Cedar Park Vista Ridge (1,990), which lost 26-21 in a bi-district championship to Austin LBJ
  • Georgetown (1,797), Dripping Springs (1,480) and Leander (2,008)

Vista Ridge, Cedar Park, East View and Vandegrift each had 5-2 district records and a share of the district title.

While O’Connor wasn’t sure how the Class 5A superintendents will vote, there’s no question this subject is close to his heart.

“It gives our kids an opportunity to be more competitive,” he said. “It gives our kids an opportunity to even the playing fields. The reason (the UIL and other superintendents) leveled the playing field in other divisions is to give all kids a fair and equal field. Numbers and resources matter, especially when you play schools with twice as many kids to pull from and you’re asked to compete against them.”

He added that MFISD has had tremendous head coaches, but their district records have not reflected all of their contributions to the programs.

“They’ve pulled the best out of our kids,” the superintendent said. “Our kids have given everything they have.

“The reason I am doing this is absolutely for my students and my community,” he added, “and knowing our kids in this community deserve an opportunity to be able to compete on an even playing field year in and year out. I know our kids will compete. If the system is not structured to allow that to happen, I have to advocate to change that system. My duty is to fight for my school district. That’s what I’ll continue to do.”     

jfierro@thepicayune.com