We really won’t know what the UIL’s Class 5A split will look like until Feb. 5, 2018. That’s a little less than 11 months away from the realignment.
But what we do know is that when it happens, the face of Class 5A football will look completely different. Football-only districts will have unusual partnerships. Travel could be more than just your 45- to 60-minute drive from one game on one weekend to much longer for the next game the following weekend.
That’s fine with notable coaches in Northeast Tarrant County who will be impacted by this, especially from a big school perspective. The UIL announced this move two weeks ago based on a vote from superintendents across Texas. Schools with the greater enrollment numbers will be in Division I. Schools in lower enrollment numbers will be in Division II.
This impacts the Northeast Tarrant 5A programs Justin Northwest, Northwest V.R. Eaton, Colleyville Heritage, Grapevine, Richland and Birdville.
“I’m 100 percent behind this,” Colleyville Heritage head coach Joe Willis said. “You can handle the district in other sports. But when it comes to football, it looks a lot different. For the sake of parity, it’s going to bring more parity.”
“If I’m a coach with a school of 1,200 and I’m playing a school of 2,100, you’re going to see the difference. With this, you’re going to shorten the gap from top to bottom.”
- Haslet Eaton coach Brad Turner
In the current format that expires after the 2017 football season, each district sent four teams to the playoffs. The two with the larger enrollment went into Division I. The two with the smaller enrollment moved into Division II.
However, that still created scenarios where a school with perhaps 1,000 more students played an opponent in the same division.
Football is a game of numbers. The more athletes you have playing in your program, the better your chances are year after year to make a deep run.
The current 5A cutoff is 1,100-2,149. But there were times in the playoffs when a school of 2,000 played a school of 1,300 in Division I. Unless there was a super group of athletes going through that smaller school, the chances were that the larger school was going to win.
What this will do is eliminate that issue. Whenever the UIL announces its new 5A numbers sometime in December, you can figure the dividing line to come in the middle. The speculation is that it’s going to be somewhere in 1,700s. Classes 2A, 3A and 4A are already doing this. The success found there created the movement to move this up to 5A.
“If I’m a coach with a school of 1,200 and I’m playing a school of 2,100, you’re going to see the difference,” Eaton coach Brad Turner said. “With this, you’re going to shorten the gap from top to bottom.”
What this does is change how the district season is going to look. The current District 8-5A is going experience a radical shift. No longer will you see Grapevine, Colleyville Heritage, Richland and Birdville share a district the Fort Worth ISD schools.
Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Fort Worth Poly, Fort Worth Dunbar and Fort Worth Carter-Riverside are moved elsewhere. Colleyville Heritage, Richland and Birdville are all over 2,000 students. Grapevine is just a little more than 1,800. The chances of those four staying together appear pretty good.
Now, who will join them is another matter. Northwest and Eaton (there is a chance Eaton could move all the way up to 6A in 2018) would be fits. Maybe Denton Ryan and Denton High drop down. This area could catch a travel break, because I’ve seen tweets where you could have Highland Park matched with Texarkana Texas High in the same district. Not fun.
However, you can see what this means. There are no easy wins where coaches privately rolling their eyes the week of a game where they may have to pull their starters by halftime. Each game will be a challenge.
“To me, the best thing is that this will create more interest,” Willis said. “You’re going to have bigger crowds. Something will on the line every week.”