By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – The latest University Interscholastic League (UIL) alignment has compelled San Marcos High School to appeal its new district assignment, which places it in District 27-4A with Kerrville Tivy, 70 miles away for the crow carrying a five-gallon gas can. From the northeast, we hear unconfirmed rumors that Hutto wants out of its assignment in District 25-4A.
Suddenly, from a Hays CISD perspective, that goofy, six-team District 17-4A assignment that had everyone scratching their heads a week ago seems like a pretty nice deal. It might even be a good arrangement in danger of going away.
San Marcos wishes to be placed in District 17-4A for a geographic and competitive upgrade.
Hutto could also be angling for District 17-4A to escape from the patch-worked District 25-4A and play against its neighbors in Elgin and Manor.
In particular, the San Marcos problem opens a difficult and interesting problem for the Hays CISD, which contains two high schools, Hays and Lehman, operating under very different circumstances.
From reading the UIL appeal rules, San Marcos can take two paths. One simply requires unanimous approval from all the schools affected, which means every school in the assigned district and every school in the district to which San Marcos wishes to be moved. Another path is an appeal straight to the UIL assignment appeals committee.
If you’re the Hays CISD, how do you vote on allowing San Marcos into your district?
On one hand, you have to understand that the UIL district assignment isn’t really about making the playoffs. It’s about what’s best for kids, and it’s clearly better for San Marcos kids if they’re not hiking too and from Kerrville on Tuesday nights.
On the other hand, it’s not simply about kids. It’s about your kids. The present alignment is a boon for the Hays CISD because it’s so beneficial to Lehman, which suddenly becomes a playoff contender in football and all other sports.
As four teams from each Class 4A district go to the playoffs and the new District 17-4A includes only six schools, Lehman coach Steve Davis can hoist his wobbly colt of a football program on a two-in-three chance of making the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine the Hays CISD would diminish that opportunity by approving the inclusion of San Marcos, which would reduce Lehman’s chances.
Not surprisingly, since Hays and Lehman live in such different worlds, the inclusion of San Marcos would hurt Lehman and help Hays. That’s because San Marcos and Del Valle would become the largest two schools in District 17-4A, which means Hays is more likely to play in the Division II football playoffs instead of the Division I playoffs.
A seven-team district with San Marcos would certainly make scheduling easier for the Hays and Lehman coaches, who are in for trouble lining up non-district games in a world that surrounds them with larger districts. Don’t be too surprised to see the Hays CISD teams scheduling Class 3A competition, and traveling for the privilege, at mid-season.
Adding San Marcos to the district mix would significantly alleviate those problems, restore the Hays-San Marcos football rivalry (which everyone seems to love, except for the coaches involved), and offer Lehman a new rivalry with San Marcos. But the Hays CISD schools would pay the price with a tougher path to the playoffs.
From the San Marcos perspective, it’s a no-brainer. San Marcos administrators are rightly beside themselves that the UIL put them with Kerrville Tivy in District 27-4A. It’s true that San Marcos has scheduled Tivy for non-district football the last couple years, but that’s a long way from requiring students to make that trip on Tuesday nights. Nor does it make sense that the three Hays County school districts with Class 4A high schools are in three different UIL districts.
In fairness to the UIL, by the way, this idea going around that the UIL placed the Hays County schools the way they did because they didn’t look at a map is utterly provincial. Of course, the UIL looked at a map. If anyone else looks at a map, they’ll find that almost any school assigned to the same district as Kerrville Tivy will complain, because Kerrville doesn’t lie within sight of another Class 4A school except for Boerne.
The true mystery about these alignments is that the UIL is headquartered in Austin, yet doesn’t seem to understand the folkways of the cities on Austin’s outer ring. Being fair, again, to the UIL, the locations of Class 4A schools on Austin’s outer ring defy neat district drawing and a lot of schools will be unhappy with whatever the UIL decides.
Locally, however, it’s crazy for Dripping Springs to be in District 25-4A with Killeen and Hutto, for Hays and Lehman to be in a district with Elgin and Manor, or for San Marcos to be in a district with Kerrville Tivy. A bit further to the north, it makes no sense for Hutto to be in District 25-4A with Lake Travis, but for it to not be in the same district as Elgin and Manor.
Let’s pretend we’re the UIL and try to break this down sensibly. You look at Austin’s outer ring and see 14 Class 4A high schools – Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Hays, Hutto, Killeen, Lake Travis, Lampasas, Lehman, Lockhart, Manor, Marble Falls, Pfugerville Hendrickson and San Marcos. What now?
In the course of assigning districts, the UIL faces two constraints – Austin-area geography and UIL geography, and those geographies work at crossed purposes because Austin-area geography calls for a north-south split and UIL geography calls for an east-west split to fill out Region III, which runs east to Houston.
If the UIL observes Austin-area folk habits, it draws two very different districts. District 25-4A would go to Region IV and include the seven southern schools – Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Hays, Lake Travis, Lehman, Lockhart and San Marcos. District 17-4A would be oriented to the north and go to Region III with the seven northern schools – Elgin, Hutto, Killeen, Lampasas, Manor, Marble Falls and Pflugerville Hendrickson.
To be sure, the proposal here presented isn’t perfect. It pushes Region III way out west to Marble Falls and Lampasas. However, it’s less far-flung than the UIL’s decision, which absurdly places Killeen and Hutto in Region IV.
Even if we want to credit the UIL with being rational, we still can’t explain why San Marcos is playing west of San Antonio while a six-team district operates right next door, nor can we understand how Hutto is in the same district with Dripping Springs and Lake Travis, but not in the same district as Elgin and Manor.
Here’s what we do know: those around the Hays CISD with any inclination to complain about the UIL’s alignment should, instead, be thanking their lucky stars. Viewing the alternatives, the UIL has gift-wrapped the best possible outcome for the Hays CISD schools from a competitive standpoint, and the geography isn’t murderous. The UIL has spared Hays a district including San Marcos and defending Class 4A football champion Lake Travis.
Hays CISD boosters might cross their fingers to keep the alignment the way it is, because it makes all the sense in the world for San Marcos and Hutto to join District 17-4A and the UIL would be obtuse to deny appeals to that effect.
Whatever happens, the smoke won’t clear until Feb. 21, which is the day when the UIL will rule on district assignment appeals. We shouldn’t be shocked to see changes.Email | Print