UIL athletic director answers realignment questions
ABILENE, Texas —
Abilene High and San Angelo Central getting grouped in the same district would not have been unexpected news from Thursday's UIL realignment.
But, putting those two west Texas schools with five Dallas-Fort Worth area teams was especially noteworthy.
University Interscholastic League Athletic Director Dr. Susan Elza spoke at the Texas High School Coaches Association Region II meeting in Abilene on Saturday. She said how the UIL, the governing body for Texas public schools, decided to pair AHS and SA Central with Weatherford, Haltom, Hurst L.D. Bell, Richland, and state powerhouse Euless Trinity in District 3-6A has been one of the top questions they've received.
"We spent a lot of time with Amarillo ISD, Abilene ISD and San Angelo ISD to try to understand what would be the best case scenario," said Dr. Elza, "It comes down to mileage."
The UIL has traditionally used push pins and rubber bands on road maps to visually chop up districts. But this year, they worked with a new mapping software that showed exact mileage and expected traffic depending on the time of day.
"It just came down to the least amount of mileage within that district. I think that's hard for people to understand."
Abilene High was indifferent on going east to DFW or back west for district. In fact, head coach Del Van Cox said going east would make it easier to schedule non-district games because the Class 6A teams in Amarillo, Midland and Odessa are "always looking for games."
Dr. Elza stressed the mapping software only gave them a better look at their options, and that humans made the final decisions on where to place each school.
"That's a point we need to drive home. That computer is not making that decision. The computer is giving us the data to inform our decision."
San Angelo Central is a nearly four hour drive to Euless Trinity, L.D. Bell, Richland and Haltom. Even driving to Weatherford will take more than three hours.
There are rumors San Angelo Central will appeal its district to presumably move back to its familiar district with Midland High, Midland Lee, Odessa High, Odessa Permian, Wolfforth Frenship and Amarillo Tascosa.
The first step of the appeal process is unanimous approval from all schools in both the district a school is requesting to leave, and the district a school is requesting to join. This seems unlikely, because Amarillo Tascosa was the only school in favor of having a six-team district when school officials met with the UIL prior to realignment.
Central could then appeal directly to the UIL's appeal committee, which is made up of its legislative council members.
The other local headline is the new division split in Class 5A, which has been in place in Class 1A-4A. The split means the classes are divided into divisions based on enrollment.
This meant that even with Wylie moving up to Class 5A, the Bulldogs would not be in the same district as Cooper though the two have agreed to play in non-district.
"It's different. The school districts want it, and I understand why they want it, but the reality is there's more travel with a split like that," said Dr. Elza. Previously splitting schools into Division I and II in Class 5A began for the playoffs. However, now the split starts with the district season.
Cooper is in District 2-5A Division I with Amarillo High, Caprock and Palo Duro, and Lubbock High, Coronado and Monterey.
Wylie is in District 3-5A Division II with Canyon Randall, Plainview, Lubbock Cooper, Wichita Falls High School and Wichita Falls Rider.
"The number one feedback we're receiving is 'Wow. It does cause more travel!' More than they anticipated."
In volleyball and basketball Cooper and Wylie will be in the same district along with Aledo, Granbury, Wichita Falls HS, and WF Rider. It has also been rumored that Aledo and Grabury could appeal to move districts, but Dr. Elza says they have not heard officially from either school.
Realignment for public high schools happens every two years, meaning the next shuffling won't be until 2020. But Dr. Elza said she started talking with UIL Deputy Director Dr. Jamey Harrison about the next realignment on Saturday morning.
"It wasn't quite 7 a.m. and he called me and we started talking about the next realignment process and what we need to put in place, and the feedback from schools. Even though it can be perceived as negative, it is the best thing we can have to adjust ourselves and look at our process to what we need to do as this state continues to grow.
"It's no different than coaching. Coaches make unpopular decisions when they decide to call this play over that play, and that's the same thing for us.
"We make decisions," Dr. Elza said. She paused, then smiled. "Sometimes they're not held in high regard."