It’s time for the UIL to think, and act, a little differently

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 3, 2008 - It's time for the UIL to do something different, because this just ain't working.

The University Interscholastic League has resisted expanding its alignment to include a Class 6A, but with the explosion of new schools in metropolitan areas, it looks like it's past time.

With the UIL's release of the biennial reclassification and redistricting on Friday, Class 5A and 4A are reaching the breaking point with a combined 498 schools just in those two classifications. It's not going to get any better in the new future.

Suburban communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas are building new schools as fast as they can - Frisco now has four Class 4A schools and is building more, for example. Not too long ago, the state had 1,050 public high schools, now it is pushing 1,200. Most of the new schools are in the 4A range.

By its own rules, the UIL tries to get the ratio at 2-to-1 between the largest and smallest schools in a classification. With the exception of Class 5A, in which the top 220-plus schools are placed, the largest school in a classification should be no larger than twice the size of the smallest school.

That is not the case in any classification.

In the newest alignment, Class 4A enrollments are between 980 and 2,084, which is a ratio of 2.13-to-1. In Class 3A (430 to 979 enrollments), the ratio is 2.28-to-1, and in Class 2A (200 to 429), the ratio is 2.15-to-1.

The UIL is out of compliance by its own rules.

That, in itself, is unfortunate, but it also leads to bigger problems. Like travel.

Sulphur Springs got a raw deal with the new alignment by having to take 200-mile round trips to five of its six district competitors.

It's not just Sulphur Springs that suffers. There is a 5A district that stretches for 300 miles from Amarillo to San Angelo, another that goes from Abilene to Fort Worth, and a 4A district that covers 320 miles from San Angelo to Hereford.

That's not just varsity football on Friday nights. That's also Tuesday night volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball games, Thursday subvarsity games and Monday middle school contests.

That's not good for anybody.

Who suffers? Everyone. Students have to leave school early to make the long trips and then play in front of a sprinkling of their fans because parents can't always take off in the middle of the afternoon to drive several hours to attend games. Schools are faced with rising travel costs.

It's a mess that could be adjusted somewhat if the UIL would rethink its stance on a Class 6A.

I did a study two years ago and found out that the UIL could make a Class 6A of the largest 48 schools in the state, which are all either in or within short driving distances of metropolitan areas, and that would solve the ratio problem and many of the travel frustrations.

If the UIL is serious about keeping its own mandate with a 2-to-1 ratio in each classification, it will take the necessary steps within the next two years to fix it.

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