By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – The current difference between the smallest 5A school, 1,100 enrollment, and the largest 5A school, enrollment of 2,147, is 1,047 students in total.
On the field on Friday nights it may mean a roster of 40 in comparison to a roster of 60 on the other side in some 5A games across the state.
On Wednesday, superintendents voted 147-77 in favor of splitting Class 5A football into a Division I and Division II beginning in 2018.
“It would be great for our kids,” Splendora coach Marcus Schulz said. “This would at least put us on a level playing field. Being the smallest 5A in the state is tough when you have to play schools with 1,800-1,900 student enrollment numbers.”
Splendora was elevated from the 4A to 5A level in December 2015 when its enrollment number eclipsed the mark by six students, putting them at 1,106 enrollment and thrown into District 21-5A just two months later at UIL realignment.
The Wildcats went 3-7 last season.
If the split were to be put into affect on District 21-5A, based on last year’s enrollment numbers, three schools – Kingwood Park, Porter and Caney Creek – would be considered Division I. Crosby, Dayton, New Caney, Humble and Barbers Hill would be Division II.
Leveling the playing field is what Schulz believes the divisions would do, helping out program’s like his to not have to play a school such as Porter, which has 681 more students enrolled.
“They have more kids to choose from and come out to play,” Schulz said. “We have 1,100 students with usually about 40 kids on varsity, where bigger schools have 1,700-1,800 to choose from with 50-60 players on their teams.”
Some though don’t agree that a difference in enrollment by 600-700 makes the difference between a winning and non-winning program.
Tomball ISD Athletic Director Vince Sebo, who by the current numbers would have a Division I and a Division II school in his district, said there are a lot of variables that play into the equation – number of athletes that come in, ratio of males to female athletes, ect.
Sebo eluded to the game last season between Tomball Memorial (2,019) and Tomball (1,731), which went to overtime as an example of the slight difference in enrollment in the end not playing a major factor into the game, which Tomball Memorial won 34-28.
When the new enrollment numbers are factored in, Sebo said there is a chance Tomball Memorial may go 6A, but if it does stay at the 5A level for another two years the chance that the programs would split into separate divisions and different districts.
A school district can opt though to have what would be its lower division team go with the Division I school to keep the programs in the same athletic district to help save on travel costs.
“I would visit with my superintendent and campus coordinators before deciding,” Sebo said.
If they did end up splitting into different divisions it would bring an end to the cross-town rivalry as a district contest, which Tomball Memorial has owned since the inaugural game in 2012, winning four of the five meetings.
But doesn’t prevent it from being an early-season test in non-district play.
“Absolutely, the two schools are so competitive and the coaches are so competitive,” Sebo said about continuing the rivalry. “I’m sure they would want to hook it up.”
The splitting of 5A football into two divisions still has to go before the UIL in June but many expect the proposal to be approved, considering the 65% approval rating it received from the superintendents.
According to some reports, the projected split line between the divisions would be around the 1,735 mark in enrollment – Division II (1,100 – 1,734) and Division I (1,735-2,147).
According to Greg Tepper of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, there are 253 Class 5A programs in Texas, with 127 qualifying for Division I with last year’s enrollment numbers.
The new districts would be set in February 2018 during UIL realignment, which will set the districts for the 2018-2019 seasons.