Arlington Citizen-Journal

Football playoffs in Texas can mean big trip expenses for school districts with winning teams

Four Arlington high schools played football postseason bi-district road games Nov. 14 — in San Angelo, Abilene, Midland and Odessa.

When you’re chartering buses and transporting high school players, bands and drill teams across remote West Texas, it’s not just an away game, it’s far away.

The tab for sending Martin, Lamar, Sam Houston and Bowie, all of which are Class 6A schools, out west was $140,880, according to Cindy Powell, the district’s chief financial officer.

“We do budget for playoff expenses for all the sports, based on historical trends,” said Powell. “This year we have more football teams traveling farther, earlier in the playoffs. We do have the budget to cover this.”

The district will receive a $7,500 reimbursement from the Ector County school district in Odessa and the Midland school districts to help on expenses, a total of $15,000. The reimbursement is a common practice among districts, and Arlington has reciprocated on many occasions, Powell said.

A total of 1,198 students traveled for the district that weekend, including football teams, bands and drill teams.

Three of the four football teams stayed overnight on Thursday before the games in their host cities: Martin in Midland, 313 miles away; Sam Houston in Odessa, 335 miles distant; and Bowie in San Angelo, 241 miles away.

The district paid, on average, $150 per night for the football team’s rooms, with four students per room.

Lamar’s team did not stay overnight in Abilene, which is closest to Arlington at 164 miles.

The bands, drill teams and cheerleaders who traveled to the games did not stay overnight, and Martin’s band did not make the trip.

Twenty-eight buses of various sizes transported the students. Of that number, 24 were chartered and four were district buses.

Travel expenses also include students’ meals.

Martin, the lone winner among the four Arlington schools in the first round of the playoffs, will travel to Wichita Falls this weekend to play Amarillo High School and will require nine buses, but no overnight stay.

If Arlington schools also field playoff teams in basketball, baseball, track or other sports and run up travel expenses in those endeavors, don’t worry, district officials said.

“There’s a lesser number of kids traveling in those other sports,” Powell said. “We’re thrilled that our schools are successful, and we’re going to find the resources to transport them to those games. I think our budget’s OK.”

Planners base their budgeting on trends every year and try to be conservative with the estimates. Budget amendments can be made if those estimates turned out to be inadequate.

“Anecdotally, I don’t recall a time when we’ve had this many traveling that far,” Powell said of the football weekend.

Why did Arlington teams have to travel so far? Couldn’t they have played in closer cities?

“Every two years, the UIL does a realignment,” explained Michael Hill, assistant superintendent of administration. “They divide the state into four regions. By our geographical region we’re the closest thing to the big schools out west.”

Why were four of the Arlington school district’s five 6A teams even in the playoffs? Short answer: Martin and Sam Houston are their UIL athletic district’s Division I bracket winners, while Lamar and Bowie are the Division II winners.

According to the UIL football manual, in conferences 5A and 6A, the top four teams from each district advance to the playoffs. The two schools with the largest enrollments automatically advance to the Division I bracket. The remaining two schools advance into the Division II bracket.

When the playoff dust clears, there are two state champions per conference in 5A and 6A.