Every two years, University Interscholastic League officials meet in their sequestered location in Austin to finalize the most secure of secrets, the biannual realignment.
Athletic directors and coaches have no idea until about 9 a.m. on the first Monday in February – for this one, it will be next Monday – who they share their district homes with for the next two years. The guessing games are endless and maddening. Except for the selected members, no one knows anything.
But here’s what we do know. The classifications have changed. Class 5A is now 6A, 4A is 5A, and so on. Texas high schools know what classification they are in. That will help scheduling. Grapevine is dropping down to 5A. Northwest Byron Nelson is moving up to 6A.
The fallout from this is how the rivalries will change. The Northwest ISD finally gets what it needs with Northwest and Nelson playing each other in every sport. For the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, the tone of the Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage rivalry will be different because they won’t be partners. Non-district contests must take that place.
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“We’ll play in non-district,” Grapevine football coach Dave Henigan said. “Truthfully, I don’t think it will impact the rivalry that much. They won’t have the playoff implications like we’ve had. But it’s still going to be a battle. There’s going to be a big crowd and the atmosphere will not change.”
It’s just that non-district football games will have to be played in September instead of October, non-district basketball will go in November or early December instead of January, non-district soccer matches will be played in January instead of February and March, and non-district baseball and softball are looking at February and March rather than April.
Relocating to a smaller classification should help Grapevine become more competitive. It has been one of the smallest 5A schools in the state. When you are lining up on a football field, that size shows up on the line of scrimmage and depth.
“Any coach will tell you they would prefer to be the largest in their classification rather than the smallest,” Henigan said.
Byron Nelson will probably feel like Grapevine felt because it turned it in an enrollment number a little over 2,300 students. The UIL cutoff for 6A was 2,100. The competition definitely will change especially against the second division teams. A weaker 6A team is generally considered better than a weaker 5A team.
However, the anticipated games between Nelson and Northwest that will count in the standings will finally happen.
Everyone in that part of North Texas has been counting down the days.
“It’s great for the communities,” Nelson coach Brian Polk said. “One side of the stadium will be us and the other side will be Northwest. It should be a packed house. I can see people standing in the end zones on the grass.
“The good thing for us is that our kids have kind of seen this intensity from our district with Denton Guyer and Wichita Falls Rider. And we know we’re on the low end of the totem poll for enrollment. We just have to get through it.”
Then there’s the wild card in Carroll. This school can go anywhere. Carroll could go west, because the number of 6A West Texas schools is diminishing. It could stay where it was with the Keller ISD schools and Northwest. It may jump over to the Lewisville ISD along with Denton Guyer and Denton Ryan. Colleyville Heritage also has a different outlook, because it’s running solo. It may be Carroll’s partner.
The angst is real. Once the white smoke appears on TV screens, emotions will run high. Once that has subsided, it’s time for the schools to get to work and make nice.
Why? Because the UIL said so.