Divide and conquer
DCTF's Greg Tepper looks into what the decision to divide Class 3A into divisions means.
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We’re going to dive headlong into some nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes Texas high school football structuring minutiae, so the best place to start is with some explainers.
Every other year, the UIL – Texas high school football’s governing body – goes through what’s called realignment. Every public school in the UIL reports their enrollment, and based on that enrollment, they are put into a classification with like-sized schools. For example: last year, during the UIL’s realignment, any school with 2,090 students or more was put in Class 5A; schools with 1,005 to 2,089 students were put in 4A; and so on.
From there, the schools in each classification are divided into districts, which are determined geographically. That’s why every team in District 1-5A is in El Paso.
When the playoffs roll around, things get a little wonky depending on what classification you’re talking about. Four teams from each district make it to the playoffs in Class 5A and Class 4A. The two qualifying teams with the highest enrollment play in the Division I bracket, and the two qualifying teams with the smallest enrollment play in the Division II bracket.
For example: in 2012, the four playoff teams from District 18-4A were Brenham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Magnolia West, in that order of finish. Montgomery (enrollment: 2,025) and Magnolia West (1,798) went to Division I, with Montgomery taking the top seed. Huntsville (1,741) and Brenham (1,424) went to Division II, with Brenham – the district champ – taking the top seed.
When you get down to Class 2A and Class 1A, things are different. Those districts are pre-divided by size. Class 2A is comprised of schools that have between 449 and 200 students, but they are divided again before the season, into Division I and Division II. Bushland, for example, has 425 students; they’re 2A Division I. Alpine has 295.5 students; they’re 2A Division II. This makes the playoffs much easier to sort: the three best teams from each of the 16 districts go to the playoffs, with the top team getting a first-round bye.
For example: in 2012, the four playoff teams in District 15-1A Division I were Shiner, Ganado and Three Rivers, in that order. Those three teams were all placed in the 1A Division I bracket, with Shiner getting a bye.
You’ll notice, of course, that I haven’t even mentioned Class 3A. And that’s the topic of this story.
(And save your e-mails: I know that Class 3A will technically be known as Class 4A starting in 2014. I’m going to refer to it as Class 3A for ease of understanding.)
As currently constructed, Class 3A is a little bit of both styles. Schools are not pre-divided into divisions like in 2A and 1A, but they only take three teams out of each district, with the largest school going to Division I and the two smaller schools going to Division II.
For example: in 2012, the three playoff teams from District 10-3A were Argyle, Celina and Frisco Lone Star, in that order. But Frisco Lone Star was the biggest of the three teams, so they went to Division I, while Argyle and Celina played in Division II.
I said all of that in order to say this: things are going to change thanks to a recent vote by the Class 3A superintendents.
On Monday, the school superintendents for the Class 3A schools voted to split the class into pre-divided divisions for the 2014 realignment, meaning that they will resemble the structure of Class 2A and Class 1A. There will be a Class 3A Division I and a Class 3A Division II starting in 2014.
What does it all mean?
First of all, the same number of teams will make the playoffs, but the two brackets will be on the same timeline. It’s been a bit wonky that the 3A Division I title game is played a week before the other title games; now, there will be ten playoff games over that same weekend.
Secondly, it’s going to even the playing field a little bit. Class 3A covers a huge swath of schools, from schools with 1,000 students (like Houston Yates and Stephenville) all the way down to schools with 400 students (like Amarillo River Road and Shallowater).
Third – and this is one of the few drawbacks to the plan – this could put teams in a travel pinch. Think about it: districts are drawn up geographically, with like-sized schools in the same area forming districts. When you divide the size, you dilute the number of schools within a reasonable proximity, meaning that there could be more travel involved for the schools.
So, that’s what’s happening In Class 3A coming in 2014, when the UIL realigns again. There will be plenty of teams moving up and down in and out of Class 3A, but just out of curiosity, how would those changes affect Class 3A as currently constructed? How would a hypothetical pre-divided 3A look in 2013?
There were 183 teams in Class 3A in 2012, meaning that in order to fairly divide it, the cut-off for Division I and Division II would be 91.5 teams in each. The biggest 91.5 schools would go to Division I; the smallest 91.5 schools would go to Division II.
(Obviously, we can’t have half a school, but it all works out. Just wait.)
As a result, the cut-off number would be an enrollment of 668. If you have between 1,005 and 668 students, you’re Division I; if you have between 668 and 450 students, you’re Division II.
Here how they’d look, based on enrollment.
|3A DIVISION I||Enroll.||3A DIVISION II||Enroll.|
|El Campo||975||Dallas Roosevelt||624|
|Houston Sterling||975||Rio Hondo||622|
|RGC La Grulla||968||Carrizo Springs||610|
|Tyler Chapel Hill||961||Bullard||606|
|Mabank||944||Texarkana Pleasant Grove||593|
|Fischer Canyon Lake||916||Anna||578|
|Clint Mountain View||910||Cuero||574|
|Paris North Lamar||889||Rusk||569.5|
|Taylor||882||Corpus Christi West Oso||551|
|FW Diamond Hill-Jarvis||861||Huntington||544|
|Fort Worth Castleberry||844||Dallas Madison||537|
|San Antonio Sam Houston||832.5||Iowa Park||534|
|Frisco Lone Star||825||Smithville||528|
|Liberty Hill||807||Houston KIPP Sunnyside||520|
|Wills Point||788.5||Brookshire Royal||514|
|Bridge City||773||Glen Rose||511|
|Levelland||773||Longview Spring Hill||506.5|
|Waco La Vega||754.5||West||501|
|Bandera||751||Dallas Prime Prep Academy||500|
|Lubbock Estacado||747.5||Orange Grove||498|
|Wichita Falls Hirschi||731.5||Midland Greenwood||494|
|Lake Worth||724||Nevada Community||481|
|Gainesville||676||Amarillo River Road||439.5|
And, based on these divisions and our postseason Class 3A Top 25, here’s how the postseason Top 10s would work for the 2012 season (in other words: if 3A had been pre-divided for 2012, these would be the 10 best teams in each).
|2012 3A DI Top 10||Actual Top 25 Finish||2012 3A DII Top 10||Actual Top 25 Finish|
|1) Stephenville||1||1) Gilmer||4|
|2) Navasota||2||2) Bellville||13|
|3) Kilgore||3||3) Celina||15|
|4) El Campo||5||4) Monahans||16|
|5) Carthage||6||5) Coldspring-Oakhurst||17|
|6) Abilene Wylie||7||6) Shallowater||18|
|7) La Marque||8||7) Lorena||19|
|8) Henderson||9||8) Port Isabel||24|
|9) Argyle||10||9) Ingleside||25|
|10) Graham||11||10) Bullard||NR|
Notice something? Nine of the top ten teams in our final postseason 3A Top 25 would’ve played in Division I, including both state champions and all but one state finalist. And even the top two would-be Division II teams – Gilmer and Bellville – are right near the cutoff.
All this does is speak to the importance playing within your own weight class. Navasota was a great team – perhaps 3A’s best team – but there’s no doubt that they benefited by playing in the Division II bracket. Meanwhile, there’s the case of teams like La Grange, who runs to a very good 8-2 record, gets put in Division I and gets beat by an El Campo team that has a 37% higher enrollment (609 students for La Grange, 975 for El Campo).
That matters, especially in the small-school ranks, where depth is usually a determining factor. The 3A superintendents’ decision to adjust the structure of the 3A alignment, while it may cause some travel problems, should ultimately help to level the playing field against smaller schools.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.