Divide and conquer
Divide and conquer
2013-02-28 08:00:00

DCTF's Greg Tepper looks into what the decision to divide Class 3A into divisions means.

 By Greg Tepper
 DCTF Associate Editor









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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.

Houston Yates  1000 Bellville  665
Stephenville  999 Pittsburg  660
Kaufman  998 Giddings  656.5
Pampa  986.5 Van  655
Hidalgo  984.5 Seminole  645
Big Spring  982 Gilmer  631
Kingsville King  981.5 Bridgeport  628
Lampasas 978 Hondo  627.5
Mineral Wells  977 Center 624
El Campo  975 Dallas Roosevelt  624
Houston Sterling  975 Rio Hondo  622
Fredericksburg  975 Port Isabel  617.5
Alvarado  974 Fort Stockton  615
Somerset  973 Ingleside  613
Splendora  969.5 Madisonville  613
RGC La Grulla 968 Carrizo Springs  610
Kennedale  967 La Grange  609
Kilgore  964.5 Raymondville  609
Huffman Hargrave  962.5 Wharton  608
Tyler Chapel Hill  961 Bullard  606
Boerne  958 Perryton  603.5
La Feria  958 Sinton  600.5
Lubbock-Cooper 953 Waco Connally  598
Burnet  951 Clint  595
Stafford  945.5 Sweeny  593
Mabank 944 Texarkana Pleasant Grove 593
Springtown  939.5 Celina  587
Brownwood  938 Gladewater  586
Pleasanton  936.5 Cleveland Tarkington  585.5
Cleveland  928.5 Mexia  585
Abilene Wylie  927 Canton  584
Rockport-Fulton  919.5 Devine  583
Athens  917 Vernon  581
Fischer Canyon Lake 916 Anna  578
Andrews  912.5 Pearsall  577.5
Zapata  911 Liberty  575
Clint Mountain View  910 Cuero 574
La Vernia  909 Columbus  574
Paris 890.5 Pecos  571
Princeton  889 Hardin-Jefferson  570
Paris North Lamar  889 Rusk  569.5
Henderson  888 Monahans  556
Decatur  883 Houston Jones  551.5
Taylor  882 Corpus Christi West Oso  551
Burkburnett  877 Sweetwater  548
Brownsboro  870 Houston Kashmere  544
FW Diamond Hill-Jarvis  861 Huntington  544
Crandall  852 Coldspring-Oakhurst 540
Houston Washington 845 Caldwell  538
Fort Worth Castleberry  844 Dallas Madison 537
Carrollton Ranchview 835.5 Shepherd  534
Houston Furr  835 Hamshire-Fannett  534
San Antonio Sam Houston  832.5 Iowa Park  534
Gatesville  826 Llano  530
Frisco Lone Star 825 Smithville  528
Silsbee  822.5 Bonham  524.5
West Columbia  817 Lytle  521
Houston Worthing  807.5 Orangefield  520
Liberty Hill  807 Houston KIPP Sunnyside 520
Palestine  802 Venus 516
Needville  799 Aubrey  516
Wilmer-Hutchins 798 Emory Rains  516
Borger  794 Lorena  514
Wills Point  788.5 Brookshire Royal  514
Robstown 783.5 Dalhart  512.5
Bridge City  773 Glen Rose  511
Levelland  773 Longview Spring Hill  506.5
Sealy  772 Diboll  502
Waco La Vega  754.5 West  501
Bandera  751 Dallas Prime Prep Academy 500
Navasota 749 Poteet  500
Lubbock Estacado  747.5 Orange Grove  498
La Marque  741 Atlanta  498
Carthage  741 Geronimo Navarro  496
Fabens  732.5 Crystal City  496
Wichita Falls Hirschi  731.5 Midland Greenwood  494
Texarkana Liberty-Eylau  730 Fairfield  490
Jasper  729 Progreso  482
Lake Worth  724 Nevada Community  481
Sanger  722 Buna  478
Houston Scarborough  716 Yoakum 477
Snyder  710 Groesbeck  477
Gonzales  702.5 Rockdale  474
Wimberley  699 Lyford  461
China Spring  698 Krum 460.5
Quinlan Ford  693 Hillsboro  458
Robinson  689 Melissa 457
West Orange-Stark  686 Mineola 453
Ferris  679 Shallowater  451
Gainesville  676 Amarillo River Road  439.5
Argyle 668 Anthony  236
Graham  668    

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.

He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@Tepper) and via the DCTF Facebook page.

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