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ROUND ROCK – Beginning next school year, there will be drastic changes to the postseason formats for several UIL sports.

The University Interscholastic League on Tuesday approved a proposal at its June Legislative Council meeting to restructure the playoffs in basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball by splitting each class into two divisions. The playoff structure in those sports will now resemble the current 6A football postseason format, which splits the qualified teams into two divisions based on enrollment and crowns two champions in each class. Class 1A volleyball, softball and baseball will not be affected by this change.

State tournaments, which in the past have included semifinals and finals and often back-to-back games, could be limited to championship games in this new format. Proposals in the draft The Dallas Morning News Information obtained through a public records request in May also suggests the measure could reduce the number of playoff games and possibly eliminate the regional quarterfinals in basketball and football and the area round in volleyball, softball and baseball.

Documents received from The news showed that UIL officials believe the two-division format in all team sports except football would promote competitive equity across the state and increase member schools’ chances of winning state championships.

In practice, the new format should result in minor differences in the number of participants between the playoff opponents.

The UIL has been considering this format since the 1990-91 school year, when the agency created only two divisions in Class 5A football, said UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison The news on Tuesday after the proposal was approved. Class 6A did not exist until the 2014/15 school year, so Class 5A was the UIL’s highest classification at that time.

“Since then, every other sport wanted the same thing,” Harrison said. “And every other conference wanted it. It started in 5A and then grew down.”

Under the current football postseason format, teams in Classes 1A through 5A are assigned to Division I or Division II athletic districts at each reclassification and realignment. Schools with one of these designations compete in the districts only with other teams in the same predetermined division. Class 6A teams are not assigned to a division until playoff qualifiers are determined. So a 6A school could go to Division I in the postseason one year and Division II the next.

The new playoff formats for basketball, football, volleyball, baseball and soccer will initially conform to the 6A system so as not to disrupt the current alignment structure or create additional travel for district games. The 2024-26 UIL realignment cycle will begin in the upcoming school year.

“That’s not the only option we analyzed. We put five, six or seven options on the table and as soon as we put the vote out, I identified several split conferences and anything that was different from what we just did. A (Class) 7A. All kinds of things,” Harrison said. “We tried to pursue each of those one by one until we found a definitive reason why it wouldn’t work at this time. And that’s what we found with all the other options except this one.”

Harrison added: “The only stumbling block with that was, ‘But next year? That seems a bit too fast.’ OK, tell me why we can’t do it next year and we won’t do it. The more we worked on it, the more we realised we can do it. That’s what people have been asking for, that’s the option we have to take and it’s only step 1.”

Before the vote, some Dallas coaches said they would support the change and questioned why only football had two championship brackets. Harrison said the numbers at the time the split-conference model was implemented in the football postseason suggested that football is more influenced by enrollment than any other sport.

“All sports are affected by enrollment, but football is significantly more affected than others because it’s a numbers game,” Harrison said. “Basketball will be affected a little less than baseball and softball. (Basketball) needs five players at a time. (Baseball and softball) need nine. Football needs 22.”

Scheduling for sports other than football is also a barrier, Harrison said. Football games are played once a week, usually on weekends, while sports like basketball are played twice a week, often on school days.

A number of coaches said the new format would dilute the competition, while others said they had not heard much about the proposal, which appeared on the UIL website only last week after The news receive the documents.

“I would strongly encourage them to work with us or any of the coaches’ associations that are providing them with support,” Harrison said in response to those wary of the changes. “This has been discussed ad nauseam with the (various coaches’ associations). Extensively with those organizations. So if they don’t work with those organizations, those organizations are not hearing your voice and are not able to share (your) voice with us.”

Under X: @t_myah

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