No way, 6A
DCTF's Greg Tepper says that a Class 6A "mega-class" is both unnecessary and potentially detrimental.
Perhaps no two keystrokes have the ability to set off an online firestorm among the Texas high school football community quite like “6A.”
For years, there have been rumblings – both actual and perceived – of the UIL creating a Class 6A. The pipedream for fans and some media outlets is the so-called “mega class,” wherein the very largest schools in the state will square off for big-school dominance. Consider it the so-called Champions League of high school football.
So imagine the tizzy that enveloped the World Wide Web when reports began to emerge that the UIL policy subcommittee suggested the creation of a Class 6A. The phrase caught like wildfire across social media. Finally! The next great step in Texas high school football is coming! The Class 6A craze, 140 characters at a time, was on. But.
But, there are a couple of proverbial pennies on the railroad track. Most problematic to the frenzied masses: the proposed Class 6A wouldn’t change anything.
The Class 6A that was proposed would actually only affect the smallest classifications. It is, in short, a rebranding of the six-man class as Class 1A, while the existing Class 1A would become Class 2A, and so on, making the already existing Class 5A the much-anticipated Class 6A.
It would be like giving your car a vanity license plate. Sure, we’ll all start calling it White Lightning because that’s what the plate says, but it’s still just a Dodge Neon.
But allow me to douse the Class 6A flames even further:
Texas high school football has no need for a mega-class. In fact, as much fun as it sounds like it would be, it could be detrimental to the sport.
The calls for a mega-class seems to be based around the thought that the state’s largest schools wield some sort of major advantage within Class 5A, necessitating a separation of the smallest schools from the big bad giants.
In actuality, this isn’t true.
Consider this: during the last two years, Class 5A – the state’s biggest class – has been comprised of schools with an enrollment of 2,065 students and bigger. Of the 244 Class 5A schools in the 2010/2011 alignment, 54 of them – just 22% -- had an enrollment of 3,000 students or more. In essence, 78% of the schools in Class 5A had an enrollment within a 935-student range. That’s remarkably consistent, considering the huge swath of America across which these schools exist.
Of those 54 schools that are ostensibly bigger than their classmates, they claimed a grand total of zero Class 5A state championships. In fact, only one of those Giant 54 – Euless Trinity in 2010 – even reached a state title game.
It’s the same song, different verse when you dive even deeper. In 2010, only one of the 3000-plus schools – again, Euless Trinity – reached the state semifinals. In 2011, just two of the giants – Dallas Skyline and San Antonio Madison – claimed a spot in the state semis.
The bottom line is that there comes a point where a school’s size stops mattering all that much. If the big schools were able to beat up on the small schools so thoroughly, then District 10-5A, which houses four of the state’s biggest schools in Plano East, Plano, Allen and Plano West, would be the odds-on favorite to win the state championship every year.
There’s remarkable parity in Class 5A as is, simply because once you reach about 2,000 students, evidence shows that every student after that has less and less effect on your football program’s success. If we were to lop off the largest 100 schools and have them play one another, the effect would be relatively negligible.
Beyond that, there’s the problem that nobody in the pro-mega-class camp seems to be able to account for: travel.
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that a Class 6A would be comprised of the 100 largest schools in the state. The last school in would be Austin Akins (2,730 students); the first school out would be Friendswood Clear Brook (2,705 students).
Here is a regional breakdown of those top 100 schools.
In short, almost half of the 100 biggest schools in the state are in Houston. Another quarter are in the Dallas-Fort Worth. The rest are scattered hither and yon across Texas.
What’s particularly troublesome are both Central Texas, the Valley and West Texas. There are only four Central Texas schools that make the cut: Round Rock Cedar Ridge, Austin Bowie, Austin Del Valle and Austin Akins. Who do they form a district with? Some of the San Antonio schools? That would mean an 85-mile bus trip for a district game.
West Texas is also problematic, especially considering how those nine schools break down: five are in El Paso (El Dorado, Franklin, Montwood, Coronado and Socorro), two are in Odessa (Odessa and Permian) and two are in Midland (Midland Lee and Midland). In case you were wondering, El Paso is 305 miles from Midland and 286 miles from Odessa. Can you imagine making that drive for a district game?
And travel for the Rio Grande Valley is always difficult. Even if you just lump the nine teams into a district – Los Fresnos and Laredo United are 202 miles apart – they would likely have to play a San Antonio team in bi-district play, which can mean hundreds of miles of travel.
That is a huge problem, and not something that can be simply brushed away as collateral damage. The UIL takes great care to make sure that undue travel stress isn’t put on schools, and a Class 6A mega-class would basically run directly counter to those efforts.
We all want to see the very biggest and best play each other. A mega-class is the kind of idea that sounds good from the outset, but is both unnecessary from a competitive standpoint and potentially detrimental from a practical one.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.