What’s All the Fuss About With Split Divisions in Class 5A?

What’s All the Fuss About With Split Divisions in Class 5A?

by Steve Gamel

If you’ve been paying attention to high school football storylines, you may have heard about the University Interscholastic League’s plans to move forward with a split division format before the start of next season.

Under this format, all Class 5A teams will be split between Division I and Division II for the regular season and playoffs based on their enrollment numbers. The goal is to match schools of similar size with one another rather than having smaller schools squaring off against schools with larger numbers and depth to pull from.

The UIL will use enrollment numbers turned in on Oct. 27 to determine every team’s fate for realignment day in February.

Sounds like a good plan, right? It’s all in the name of competitive balance, and having split divisions is really not a foreign concept, anyway. Teams competing in Class 4A and below are already using it. For example, Argyle is in Class 4A Division I and competes against schools relative to its own size both during the regular season and playoffs.

But with any great plan, there can always be the potential for chaos. So what’s all the fuss?

According to a Dallas Morning News article last month, the biggest concern is fear of the unknown – split divisions will affect every program differently. For example, Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas sits on the borderline between Division I and Division II using current enrollment figures, the DMN article states. Since Dallas ISD schools – which are all in close proximity to each other – could fall on different sides of the division cutoff number, Wilson’s district mates could change drastically. This could, in turn, create scheduling and transportation issues.

There is also the possibility that the cutoff numbers in each classification (1A through 6A) could change and force teams that are on the bubble between 5A and 6A to move up a weight class. Highland Park, for example, is a large 5A school, but spent 2014 and 2015 in Class 6A and could find itself moved up again.

All of this has created quite a lot of conversation among area coaches. Lake Dallas football coach Michael Young can see cause for concern when it comes to the split division format, especially with the threat of more travel. But that’s where all the concerns should end.

“It levels off the disparity and creates a level playing field, because you won’t have teams with an enrollment number of 1,100 competing against schools with enrollment numbers at 2,200,” Young said. “As an example, Division II could be schools with enrollments between 1,100 and 1,600. Any coach will tell you that numbers are very important.”

Another benefit Young pointed to is a consistent playoff structure. Under the current format, teams are split into different divisions once playoffs start, which means teams that win district don’t always get matched up with the right opponent.

“If you win your district, you’re supposed to play the fourth place team from whatever district you are lined up with,” Young said. “But it doesn’t always work out that way. We’ve had it happen here where we won our district and ended up facing a second-place team in the first round. That doesn’t make any sense. This new format should fix that.”

There are plenty of other coaches who also have come to terms with the potential changes that lie ahead, but it will continue to be a topic of conversation until realignment day. Until then, they’ll simply have to focus on this season and let the chips fall where they may after that.

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