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UIL Realignment Hits Houston Hard

On Thursday, when the UIL announced another round of realigment, Houston was hit pretty good. There were schools dropping down a classification, schools moving into pretty difficult districts both competitively and geographically and overall a sense these things can't be predicted.

Biannual realignment can be a crazy thing. For two years, high schools around the state of Texas are stuck with whatever geographic hand they are dealt in new districting. It's all predicated on numbers, but some of those numbers lead to crazy districts.

On Thursday, when the UIL announced another round of realigment, Houston was hit pretty good. There were schools dropping down a classification, schools moving into pretty difficult districts both competitively and geographically and overall a sense these things can't be predicted.

Just one example of that? Try District 22-4A. In that district, there are three Fort Bend schools, two of which just recently dropped down a classification (Fort Bend Marshall, Fort Bend Willowridge) with just one school in Fort Bend moving up to 5A (Fort Bend Elkins). Those three were put into the same district with Houston Northbrook (understandable), Houston Spring Woods (less understandable), Houston Stratford (meh) and both Tomball and Tomball Memorial (inexcuseable). That means less for football and is a nightmare for basketball coaches, who will have to drive from basically Galveston all the way up to Tomball twice a season.

For the Tomball schools, it's even worse. Only one of their opponent won't mean a long bus ride, which puts a strain on both players, coaches and parents.

That was necessary, though, since a huge chunk of Houston schools dropped from 4A down to 3A. Those include Furr, Jones, Kashmere, Scarborough, Sterling, Washington, Worthing and Yates. Add in drops for both El Campo and La Marque, two schools close enough to Houston to establish a trend, and you're seeing the problems for districting Houston.

See, as much as you'd like to blame it on the UIL, it's more on population. Across all five classifications, there were really only two Houston area schools which moved up in classification because of enrollment (Manvel and Houston KIPP Sunnyside). Fort Bend Elkins and Houston Madison were both elevated to 5A per the school's request, but that doesn't account for their enrollment.

No, there's been a drop in the population density in Houston, it seems. Or, more appropriately, there may be a drop in the geographics of the population and where they are going to school. While there were only four total schools to move up classifications, five different programs joined the UIL's district plan for the first time. Those include League City Clear Falls, Fort Bend Ridge Point, Richmond George Ranch, Tomball Memorial and Houston YES Prep Gulfton.

You can start to see part of the problem here. Around 2000, there was a boom in urban flight from Houston towards Katy. Now, instead of one high school in the Houston suburb, there is a whole district filled with them. Lately, the growth has been happening south of Houston, as Fort Bend and League City have grown steadily larger and larger.

What does that mean for programs with storied history, like Houston Madison or Houston Yates? Diminished returns, probably. A good coach can make a program great without having great players, but that's not always the case. Do you think Willie Amendola takes all the credit for Spring Dekaney's state title? Or, more likely, he lays plenty of credit at the feet of Trey Williams.

Still, it takes numbers of players to field enough teams and to develop a system that can sustain success. The recent growth down south of town is a big reason why you saw Fort Bend Hightower in the state title game and haven't seen a Houston-named school in a state championship game since 1992 when Houston Yates lost to Temple.

At this rate, and with the realignment challenges posed by today's reshuffling, that streak could continue for a while.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.