realignment

Waco ISD athletic director Johnny Tusa said UIL realignment always carries an element of surprise to it.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

The UIL took a smidgen of the mystery out of its biennial realignment when it released classification cutoff numbers in December.

But only a smidgen. Look at it this way — it’s like picking up the mystery novel knowing that somebody dies, but still not knowing the identity of the murderer.

The athletic directors and coaches at Texas’ 1,228 public, football-playing high schools are aware of what classification they’ve landed for the next two years. But they’re still pretty antsy to find out the formation of their districts. Their wait will come to an end at 9 a.m. Thursday, as the UIL will reveal the information at the 20 Regional Education Centers around the state as well as on its website at uiltexas.org.

Five schools in Central Texas will jump or slide from one classification to another from the previous alignment – Waco High (rising from 5A to 6A), Temple (5A to 6A), Hamilton (2A to 3A), Marlin (falling from 3A to 2A) and Bruceville-Eddy (3A to 2A).

That knowledge helps coaches plan – a little. Given Waco’s central location in the state, a school like Waco High could go a lot of different directions with its district. Some media realignment projections placed the Lions in a nine-team district with Midway, Temple, Belton, Harker Heights, Shoemaker, Killeen, Ellison and Copperas Cove. In such a situation, teams would play only two nondistrict games in football before kicking off district play in Week 3.

“That would be OK, because those (nondistrict) games are hard to line up,” Waco High coach Marty Herbst said.

Another scenario, published by The Old Coach website, sent Waco High and Midway north into a Region I district with Cedar Hill, Duncanville, Waxahachie, Mansfield, Mansfield Summit and Mansfield Lake Ridge.

This much is clear — Waco ISD mates University and Waco High are parting ways, in terms of classification and, obviously, district. The Trojans will remain in Class 5A for all sports and 5A Division II for football.

However, the crosstown rivalry won’t die — it’ll just change dates. Waco ISD athletic director Johnny Tusa said that the school district plans to still have the Lions and Trojans meet in the Waco ISD Athletic Hall of Fame Game in football.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve been able to put them the last game of the season, but that’s not going to be the case anymore. We’ll have to just see,” Tusa said. “We talked last week and we’ll see what happens Thursday morning, and then we’ll sit down with Rodney (Smith) and Marty and see what’s best for them. You always want to do what’s best for kids. And usually the coach has the pulse on what’s best.”

Tusa said that he expects that University and Waco High will continue to schedule one another as non-district opponents in other sports as well.

“That bodes well for us. It keeps it all in the family, no travel involved, financially it’s good for us,” Tusa said. “I think from a competitive standpoint, it’s good for us. And then to keep the pulse on each other. And for it to not have (playoff) ramifications, so to speak. Obviously the pride and the want-to and the desire are all going to be incorporated in that type of matchup, but when that’s over it’s a goose egg on the back end as far as championships are concerned. To me, that’s a good thing.”

Dropping the likes of Waco High and Temple from its district schedule can’t hurt University, which will carry a 46-game losing streak into the 2018 season.

“I think that what is intriguing about all of this is that they’ll be able to establish their own identity once again,” Tusa said. “Of course, University, Rodney is trying to build that program up. There’s no secret that they’ve been on hard times from a football standpoint.

“But in some other sports they’ve done pretty well. We’ve done pretty well in basketball, pretty well in soccer, cross country. It’s not a famine throughout. We are looking to get that football program going again, and I think they’re working really hard to do that.”

Potential district mates for University in Class 5A Division II, based on geography, include Corsicana, Ennis, Midlothian, Cleburne and the Burleson ISD schools: Centennial and Burleson. Another option might be A&M Consolidated and Bryan Rudder, two of University’s current district foes.

Among Central Texas schools, here are a few other questions that will be answered on Thursday:

Will Hillsboro come south?

The UIL’s last realignment placed a pocket of Centex teams in a district together in 4A Division I (La Vega, China Spring, Gatesville) and another pocket in 4A Division II (Fairfield, Lorena, Mexia, Robinson and Connally). The outlier was Hillsboro, which ended up in 4A Division II in a district venturing north to the Metroplex, with the likes of Glen Rose, Venus and Waxahachie Life.

All of those area teams will remain in their respective 4A Div. I and Div. II designations this time around, but the UIL could choose to link up Hillsboro with Connally, Robinson and that group and possibly send Salado, as the southernmost school in that district, elsewhere.

Could Mart be even more powerful in 2018?

The Panthers went 15-1 and captured the school’s sixth state football championship in 2017, but it’s possible that they’ll be even more dominant next season. That’s because Mart will go from being one of the smaller schools in 2A Division I to one of the biggest in 2A Division II.

Mart’s enrollment came in at 157 students, and the cutoff for 2A Division II capped at 161.4. (Mart will be the third-largest school in terms of enrollment in 2A Div. II, behind only Christoval and La Villa, which are tied for No. 1 with 161 students.)

Any coach will tell you that numbers don’t matter as much as talent, hard work and good luck with injuries. But it never hurts when you’re one of the big dogs.

Who will end up in the “district of doom?”

It happens every realignment. The process always produces several stacked districts, with a bevy of teams coming off playoff trips or deep runs.

One such example from the UIL’s last realignment in 2016 was District 10-3A Division I, which linked up Cameron Yoe, McGregor, Rockdale, Franklin, Troy, Academy and Jarrell. Five teams from that group won at least eight games in 2015, and two were coming off state runner-up finishes.

Some local school will undoubtedly come away from Thursday’s realignment feeling like it can’t catch a break. But, truthfully, the competition is tough all over.

“There’s nowhere in the state of Texas where you get a night off,” Waco ISD’s Tusa said.

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