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UIL takes no action on splitting Class 5A districts into big, small divisions

marble falls football

The University of Interscholastic League took no action on splitting Class 5A into small-school and big-school divisions for district competition. Had the measure passed, Marble Falls High School, with an enrollment of 1,125 would not have had to play schools such as Georgetown (1,797) along with Cedar Park (1,847), Cedar Park Vista Ridge (1,990), Leander Vandegrift (1,879.5) and Leander (2,008.5) in district. File photo


AUSTIN — The University Interscholastic League’s Standing Committee on Policy took no action June 17 on having small-school and big-school divisions for district competition in Class 5A football.

That means, as of right now, the UIL’s realignment will continue to be based first on enrollment and proximity. After the top four teams in each district qualify for the playoffs, the two high schools in each district with the biggest enrollment will go into the Division I bracket, while the remaining two schools will play in the Division II bracket.

Had the measure passed, Marble Falls High School (enrollment 1,125) wouldn’t have to face Cedar Park (1,847), Cedar Park Vista Ridge (1,990), Georgetown (1,797), Leander Vandegrift (1,879.5) or Leander (2,008.5) in district football competition. The teams currently play against each other in District 25-5A.

UIL media coordinator Kate Hector said the Standing Committee on Policy “decided to monitor and study the situation.”

UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison said the Standing Committee on Policy’s move to wait is not rare, adding the committee wants to give UIL staff members more time to interview school district officials across the state to compile a more in-depth report that includes costs associated with travel, meal money and safety.

“We want to have the opportunity to engage and have more discussions,” Harrison said. “In Lubbock, Abilene and far West Texas, travel can be extreme. We want to minimize the loss to school time, minimize travel and maximize competition equally. What we’re trying to do is find the right balance.”

Harrison said the committee will revisit the proposal to split the class when it reconvenes in October.

“It’s a very controversial topic at every step,” he said. “It started at Class 1A, and eventually, over several years, it’s given to Class 4A. Before it was enacted in Class 4A, it was a four- or five-year process.”

Superintendents who lead Class 5A school districts took part in a UIL survey that was sent out during the spring. They voted for the split 105-68. The superintendents of schools in Region IV, which includes Marble Falls, had 38 votes to split versus six to keep the status quo.

Harrison said the UIL looked at the breakdown of the votes from each region, noting that one region was hugely against the split, while the other two were evenly divided on the issue.

And since the UIL didn’t see at least a 75 percent majority vote, the Standing Committee on Policy couldn’t give the Legislative Council, which sets UIL policy, enough data to make a well-informed vote.

“They want to see a strong consensus,” Harrison said.

During the 2005-06 school year, then-Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Ryder Warren said superintendents were being polled to put members into big-school, small-school divisions for district play. Months later Warren said the superintendents voted overwhelmingly against the split.

Since October 2014, MFISD superintendent Rob O’Connor, who recently took a job at Sharyland ISD, had been in conversations with various superintendents about asking the UIL to survey them again. That happened during the 2015 spring semester, and those results were given to the Standing Committee on Policy June 17.

On Oct. 22, 2012, the UIL announced it would survey superintendents in the old Class 3A, which is now Class 4A, to see if they wanted big-school and small-school football districts for the start of the 2014 football season. Those surveys were sent in November 2012. The results were released several months later with the superintendents voting 102-65 for the split. The UIL did enact that measure for the Class 4A schools in football.

In November 2014, Burnet athletic director and head football coach Kurt Jones and Llano athletic director and head football coach Craig Slaughter noted some negatives that weren’t considered prior to superintendents voting two years earlier.

Football districts are the only sport that is split this way. The other sports’ districts are based on enrollment and proximity. So Llano had to play Salado, Taylor, Liberty Hill, Lampasas and Burnet in sports other than football. Some of the girls, who were band members or cheerleaders and volleyball players, couldn’t cheer and play on the same night since the football game was usually played at a different city from the volleyball contest. That also meant fans had to pick which event they wanted to see, which forced the fan base to split.

Still, Slaughter said despite those issues, he believes it evened the playing field for the football team and hopes the UIL will one day use the same model for other sports.