Things just got a little fairer for the Lubbock-Cooper and Plainview football teams.
At a price.
The University Interscholastic League revealed Wednesday its cutoff numbers for all classifications of competition for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years. It also gave away the numbers for the newly created Division I and Division II football subdivisions at the Class 5A levels.
The Bulldogs and Pirates find themselves well within the 5A Division II football circuit with submissions to the UIL of 1,521 and 1,500 students respectively. Division II includes schools with at least 1,150 students and up to 1,839 students.
But the downside is their future district, which will be unveiled Feb. 1, is all but drawn and spans a large area of Texas.
There are only four other schools in greater West Texas that fit the Division II bill. Abilene Wylie, Randall, Wichita Falls and Wichita Falls Rider.
“That’s about all they can do,” Cooper athletics director and football coach Max Kattwinkel said. “Otherwise, you’re traveling to El Paso or the Metroplex. To me, you never want to say it’s set in stone when it involves the UIL’s realignment, but that’s as close to positive as you can get.”
The schools will most likely revert to more localized districts for sports outside football.
Class 6A, which features Frenship, remained one consolidated classification that breaks up into two subdivisions at the end of the regular football season. The largest two schools in school enrollment that qualified for the playoffs compete in the Division I bracket and the smaller two play Division II.
That’s the model 5A is using for the final time this season.
Kattwinkel was with the Cooper program back when the same deal happened at the Class 4A level. The Pirates jumped to 5A at the same time 4A went to split divisions for the regular season.
“I think it worked,” he said. “When I first got to Cooper, there wasn’t a split division. It was still Class 4A and all that. But I think it’s good, especially in 5A, there’s such a wide range of kids and this makes the competitive balance a little more fair.”
Plainview got handed a surprise in the last realignment cycle and might not be so shocked this time.
There were 14 schools between Lubbock and Amarillo that knew they would be part of 5A for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years. Bulldogs athletics director and football coach Ryan Rhoades thought there would be two districts of seven teams and that his squad would play with the Lubbock schools.
The UIL placed Plainview in an eight-team district centered around Amarillo. There aren’t enough teams for two regional districts this time.
“I think I would be foolish to say that Wichita Falls Rider, Abilene Wylie, Wichita Falls High and Lubbock-Cooper and Canyon Randall are anything but quality teams,” Rhoades said. “I’m sure that some people would say, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire.’ That’s a stacked district with some really, really good teams if that ends up being the district.”
Estacado, Levelland drop to 4A Division II
The Matadors and Lobos will probably be taking their district rivalry down to the 4A Division II level.
Both teams submitted enrollment numbers below the new 4A Division I cut off of 789. Levelland turned in 773 students and Estacado sent a number of 743.
“Being one of the smaller teams in Division I by a few kids to being one of the bigger teams in Division II definitely gives our kids a better opportunity to compete,” Matadors coach Marcus Shavers said.
Both teams went to the area round of the Division I state playoffs last year.
But their movements could have big consequences to schools either to the north or south of the city limits.
Seminole turned in a number of 793 and will move from Division II to Division I. That makes an open spot in District 2-4A Division I, which runs from Sweetwater to the Permian Basin and on to Fort Stockton.
More likely, the two teams will remain with Panhandle teams, including the Borger team they played Division I ball with last season.
“You never really know until you know,” Shavers said. “I’ve heard everything as far as going north with Perryton, Dalhart, Borger and even Levelland. I’ve also heard a scenario maybe with Brownfield. I’ll tell you what, all those teams play a good brand of football. We’ve got to be ready to go and focus on the Matadors.”
Abernathy goes up
Arguably the largest development of the reveal was the fact Abernathy missed the Class 2A cutoff and will play among Class 3A teams across all sports just a season removed from reaching the 2A Division I state semifinal round of the football playoffs.
The Antelopes turned in a number of 230 and came up six students above the 2A limit. They’ll be back in 3A for the first time since 2011.
Post, meanwhile, stayed just under the 2A mark with an enrollment of 222 — two under the mark.
“We did well in that group,” Abernathy athletics director and football coach Darrell Daily said. “Football’s not a problem. Division II of 3A is tough, but so is 2A Division I. Basketball is tougher because of the numbers and things, but spring sports is where you get outnumbered in a lot of things. Track. The number of participants. But we did well, and I expect our kids to step up.”