UIL to consider home field advantage for all classes of football playoffs

Breck Merkel at Brownwood.jpg

The high school football season is more than two months away, but a new rule could bring some changes for the future.

The University Interscholastic League, which governs public school athletics in Texas, will consider extending a current rule allowing the higher seeded team the option to host its first round playoff football game to all classifications.

The rule has been in place for Class 6A since 2014, and will go into effect for Class 5A this upcoming season.

"Here's the reason they're doing it, and everybody knows it, with all the teams that are in the playoffs now, to find a spot to play is extremely difficult," Stamford head coach Ronnie Casey said. "But if they come with the home field advantage for all of us, then it's a little bit easier for us to find a field to play on. It's been a struggle for us to be able to do that for the last few years."

Class 6A schools have been able to have first dibs on their home fields, which are usually much larger than small schools' facilities, for the bi-district round. Coaches at smaller schools say this has caused difficulties in finding a stadium to play their first round playoff games.

"It would extend the travel to an extent," said Merkel head coach John Cornelius of the possible rule change. "But at the same time there have been some times we've had to drive further just to find a field because they are so hard to find."

Class 5A teams and below have had to either mutually agree upon a neutral site, or 'flip' for which team's home stadium to play their game. If an agreement can not be reached, then the two coaches will 'flip a coin' to determine which coach gets his wish.

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In 2017 Sweetwater faced Perryton in the first round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs. The two schools agreed to play in Childress, a neutral site about two-and-a-half hours from each town.

Under the potential rule extension, Perryton would have had the option to host the game because they were the second seed out of District 2-4A DI, and Sweetwater was the third seed. That would have created a 5-hour drive one-way for the Sweetwater team, students and fans.

"Some of the joy at our level of going to the playoffs is getting to play in some of those bigger, nicer stadiums so that would take that away from the kids," added Cornelius.

A few years ago Hawley opened the playoffs against Anthony. If the Bearcats had the option to play at home, it would have resulted in a six-hour drive one-way for Anthony.

"I see advantages either way, but when you're a small school and spread out so much it puts a pertty good bind on the team that's having to travel," said Hawley coach Mitch Ables.

Teams would still have the choice to play their first round game at an agreed upon neutral site instead of at one team's home stadium.

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