UIL proposes change to Class 5A, relaxes television blackout

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The UIL announced last week that it would split Class 5A football districts into separate divisions before the season started.

Based on enrollment, all 5A schools will be separated into Division I and Division II before the 2018 season starts and the districts will be formed based upon those numbers. In LISD, Cedar Park with an enrollment of more than 2000, will be in Division I while Rouse will most likely join them.

“It’s kind of new territory for everyone,” Rouse head coach Josh Mann said. “If you’re in the Division II schools you like it. For the smaller schools, it balances out and creates separation so you don’t have to wait until playoffs.”

The biggest question yet to be answered with the realignment is travel and whether or not the further separation of 5A schools will create longer, previously avoidable, trips for district football games. Schools in lower classifications have had this rule in place for some time, but schools of that size already have to travel a long distance for athletics.

“It’s a good idea,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “It levels the playing field for some of the schools that have smaller enrollments. We kind of knew what we were going to be, but now we’ll know for sure. The interesting part will be which way we go when they split it. We could be in Region 4 or Region 3 and I really don’t have any idea where we’ll end up.”

The current 5A classification consists of schools with an enrollment between 1,100 and 2,149. If those numbers stay the same, Division I would be schools with enrollment between 1,742 and 2,149 and Division II of 1,100 to 1,741.

Glenn is the wildcard in LISD. The Grizzlies are projected to be above the 1,100 student threshold for 5A status when the districts realign before the 2018 season, but if they are in 5A Division II, LISD would have schools in 6A, 5A Division I and 5A Division II.

Mann said Rouse should have an enrollment in the mid-1800s next season, putting them in the range for Division I status. But in the year when the realignment starts, the last seniors class will be going to Glenn and he expects the enrollment to drop to the 1600 range.

“We’re kind of a pickle,” Mann said. “This last realignment, we were projected to have an enrollment over 2,000, but we haven’t been over 2,000 in two years.” 

Schools also have the option to move up to Division I even if they have Division II numbers, creating yet another wrinkle in the inevitably complicated discussions to come and effectively defeating the purpose of the split.

While the 5A split drew the most headlines from the meeting, it wasn’t the only proposal the superintendents passed.

The UIL said it will enforce stricter policies regarding fighting on the football field, citing 16 acts of violence reported to the board last season. And of the six new sports brought to the attention of the UIL, only water polo will be monitored for consideration in the future.

Friday night football games have not been allowed to be broadcasted live on television, but that might be changing. The board passed a motion to televise one game a year on Sept. 1 on Fox Sports Southwest. 

Abseck said televising the playoffs and the state championship games are fine, and having one special regular season game on TV is something he could get behind. But regular Friday night television coverage is not something he’d like to see.

“There is so much that goes on with the games that TV wouldn’t cover and I would hate that people would stay home,” he said. “You’ve got the band and the cheerleaders and the TV can’t really cover all that. If you’re there you get to see the whole deal.

“That’s what makes the atmosphere so much fun and makes Friday night football, Friday night football.”

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