What’s the deal with the UIL?

Headquartered in Austin and operated under the auspices of the University of Texas, the University Interscholastic League is the governing body that oversees 64 extracurricular activities in Texas public schools, including football, which it has been regulating since 1920. UIL officials follow the National Collegiate Athletic Association rule book and enforce state law (can you say “no pass, no play”?). They’re the ones to thank for instituting overtime and eliminating penetrations and first downs as a means to break ties at the end of a game.

The UIL’s point person on football is its director of athletics, Charles Breithaupt, a former coach hired by its 28-member Legislative Council. Breithaupt says recruiting is one of the biggest violations he has to watch out for, which explains the opposition to this year’s unsuccessful attempt by Texas’ largest private and parochial schools to lobby the state Legislature for inclusion in the UIL. “A private school by its very nature recruits,” Breithaupt says. “Public schools have attendance boundaries.”

What’s up with all these A’s?

The UIL groups the 1,100 Texas high schools that field football teams into categories according to the size of their student body. The smallest schools, which can have a maximum of 84 students, are designated “six-man,” after the kind of football they play. The next smallest is 1A, with a maximum of 159, followed by 2A, with 344, 3A with 779, and4A with 1,779. Schools larger than that are 5A.

Why are there two divisions for the playoffs?

Back in the eighties, the widening disparity between the smallest and the largest 5A schools prompted fans and some school officials to call for a new 6A classification, just as the 5A classification had been created in 1980 for the largest 4A schools. But the 6A idea was scotched by the UIL because of travel considerations. Instead, the Division I and Division II playoff system was introduced in 1990 for 5A, and since then it has trickled all the way down to 2A. The way it works is that the top three teams in each district go to the playoffs—the largest school to Division I and the other two to Division II. Parents and superintendents like the fact that more teams get to participate in postseason play, but coaches complain that there isn’t an overall championship game featuring the best teams from the two divisions. Meanwhile, calls for a 6A classification for megaschools like Converse Judson and Plano continue.