SAN ANTONIO — The chances of the UIL adding another conference has become a more likely possibility.
With a number of schools opening in urban areas, an expansion could happen as soon as the 2024-2025 reclassification and realignment.
“As schools keep opening and we keep adding to what starts off as a pool of 500 schools and that pool becomes 510, 520, 550,” said Jamey Harrison, the UIL’s deputy director. “You either have to keep pushing some of them down — just do the math — 32 districts of 320 would be 10 teams per district and it won’t fall where there are 10 teams in those districts, it just doesn’t. You just can’t go much above 500 for 5A and 6A. So as those schools keep adding, I think 7A becomes a more realistic conversation.”
Harrison and Susan Elza, the UIL’s director of athletics, discussed a range of topics at the UIL’s annual coaching school press conference Sunday at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Harrison explained as larger schools open and begin competition the disparity in enrollment in Classes 4A and 3A grows.
“We just don’t have many 500 to 1,000 (student) schools,” he said. “We have some in the middle that are experiencing populations that are drifting toward those bottom conferences. So 3A and especially 4A, it just becomes more problematic. We just don’t have enough of them to make a conference without having to drive forever to be in districts.”
Harrison and Elza are looking for schools to return to a more normal schedule after dealing with restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do not currently have any UIL related protocols that schools are required to follow,” Harrison said. “Those are all local decisions and we’re hoping for what we all know as a normal year as possible.”
The UIL is also keeping an eye on the recent Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rule changes adapted by the NCAA, and a recent bill dealing with NIL passed by Texas legislators.
“As soon as we have a better understanding of that, then we will be releasing information on how that comes to bear on UIL eligibility,” Harrison said. “Changes in NCAA rules don’t necessarily impact our rules, but we are aware of them. The first question is what if anything will be allowed under the new state law that just passed.”
The UIL is also dealing with a new legislation that allows homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities for UIL schools in their attendance zone.
“There are definitely some schools considering it,” Harrison said. “Most of the school districts will not opt in to allow that. It’s really hard for us because it’s brand new.”
Harrison said UIL schools will have to make a decision on whether to opt in by Aug. 1. He also said varsity homeschool athletes will be factored into the 2022-2023 realignment.
Harrison and Elza also touched on other topics:
- The UIL will look into the number of schools opting up a division in Class 5A, which has created difficulties in aligning districts. Elza said Class 5A schools have the option to eliminate divisions if they desire.
- There has been no push for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the top seeds in Class 4A and below.
- Water polo will become a UIL sport in the 2022-2023 school year.
- Baseball practices will start a week earlier in the 2022-2023 school year.
- The coaches and players box in football will go from the 20 to the 20-yard line.
- Teams going to overtime in football will have the option of going for one or two points on conversion attempts in the first overtime. Teams will have to go for two points in the second overtime. If a game goes to three overtimes, teams will have one play from the 3-yard line and the format will continue until a winner is determined.