Wednesday, July 17, 2024

UIL playoff expansion draws reactions from coaches

Posted

For a long time, football has crowned two Texas state champions at the various levels. Now, following a ruling by the University Interscholastic League last week, volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball and soccer will also have Division I and Division II state champions beginning in the fall.

Class 1A volleyball, softball and baseball are not affected by the ruling.

Each district will still send four teams to the playoffs. However, now the two qualifying teams from the schools with largest enrollment in the league will go into Division I (big schools) and the two with the smallest enrollment will go into Division II (small school).

This is just like Class 6A football, which for the past two seasons has had its state champions from the same District 11-6A. Duncanville has won the past two Division I titles and DeSoto is back-to-back Division II champ.

Other football levels formerly used this format before splitting their Division I and Division II teams into different regular season districts several years ago.

This will, however, be something new for the sports approved last week.

The change will also mean teams in each division will play one less postseason game en route to the state final. Previously, if a team got there it meant they were playing seven games, whereas now that number will be six.

Also, for the 2024-25 school year, the UIL announced that state tournaments will consist only of championship finals. The pre-determined dates and sites for the state championships will remain unchanged.

Regional tournaments could also be going by the wayside. However, the UIL noted that there will be flexibility on the regional semifinal certification dates, allowing the four teams involved the option to organize their own tournament to complete the regional semifinal and final rounds.

Area coaches and athletic directors responded to the change:

GRANBURY ATHLETIC
DIRECTOR LAMONT MOORE

Moore said he believes the format has been for football.

“I honestly don’t have an issue with it. It will give another team an opportunity at a title,” he said.

“Hard to tell how much of an effect it will have on GISD. Time will tell. The biggest change I noticed was that it will take away one playoff game.”

Moore also stressed that alignments do matter and have an effect on school districts, but teams still have to prepare and go play, regardless of the opponent. “That’s the beauty of sports. They are won in between the lines, field, court, track, etc., not on paper.”

TOLAR ATHLETIC DIRECTOR/FOOTBALL COACH BLAKE MOUSER

Mouser has had experience with this type of split, being in 6A football as offensive coordinator at Austin Vandegrift for a decade. He said that, for Tolar, this will be a good thing as they move up to Class 3A in the fall.

“If we make the playoffs, we will be competing with schools more relative to our size than the larger enrollments in 3A. There is a big difference between a school with 254 students compared to a school with 544,” he said. “As always, the most important step is to make the playoffs but once we get in, this will benefit a program like Tolar.

“Having one less round and taking away regional tournaments will be weird at first but this is a good step the UIL took to make more of a competitive balance without creating a 7A.”

LIPAN ATHLETIC DIRECTOR/GIRLS BASKETBALL COACH AMBER BRANSON

“I’m not sure yet exactly what, or how, it will impact us. Nor do I know how I feel about it yet,” Branson said.

“The one thing I don’t like for basketball is the state semis won’t be in San Antonio, only the state finals.” 



GRANBURY BASEBALL COACH BRAD EPPLER

Eppler said as long as the change means all sports outside of football can stay in a district that is geographically reasonable in the next realignment (2026), then he is all for it.

“The football ‘pre-separated’ model of big 5A and small 5A schools means that schools often drive past a number of schools that are in the same classification on the way to a contest. I don’t love that,” he said. “Why can’t we just stay closer to home and split them up in the postseason like the old days?”

Eppler noted there is almost a 1,000 total enrollment difference between the largest 5A school and smallest 5A school. He said matching them up in competition would not make sense for the sake of fair play.

“My preference would be to do the postseason split and bring football back into the same district as the rest of the teams. However, I haven’t taken a deep enough dive into how that would affect football.

“Bottom line for me is, the powers that be decide and we adapt. Simple as that.”

LIPAN BOYS BASKETBALL COACH BRENT GAYLOR

“It won’t have much of an impact on us next season because most of the top teams in our region will more than likely be in the small school division with us,” Gaylor said.

As for the change itself, Gaylor has no problem. He said there are both positives and negatives with all decisions.

“I personally like the elimination of regional tournaments, but don’t like the Final Four teams not all playing at the state tournament,” he said.

TOLAR SOFTBALL COACH CHRISTY COLLIE

“With any change there are things to like and dislike about it, but we’ll have to roll with it and see what happens,” Collie said, noting the teams still have to compete and make goals to be in the top four in each sport.

“I feel strongly our Tolar teams will accomplish this goal next year,” she said. “I’m excited to see the new structure played out this next year, and after we get a year under our belts we can better compare to what has been.”

GRANBURY VOLLEYBALL COACH DESIREE SHAHAN

Shahan was at a coaching clinic and said someone mentioned the change might happen. A couple days later the news broke.

“I was shocked to hear that it was going to happen,” she said. “No matter what they decide about playoffs we have to do our job as a team to secure a playoff spot and to work hard to achieve our goals for the year.”