By Betsy Dolan
Fort Bend ISD expects to see another round of changes when the University Interscholastic League announces the newest realignment in February.
The changes are not expected to be as significant as in 2012 when the district added an 11th school and had to be broken up.
“It’s the nature of the beast every two years”, said Fort Bend ISD Athletic Director, Philip O’Neal. “But we know that rivalries will continue, new ones will be made, and that Fort Bend schools will still be playing Fort Bend schools.”
The UIL released their initial plans in early December which includes a name change for the classifications. Every team bumps up a division so that six-man football will be renamed Class 1A; Class 1A becomes 2A and current 5A schools will be grouped in Class 6A.
The UIL also tweaked enrollment requirements with Class 6A at 2,100 and above and Class 5A at 1,060-2,099.
Based on that, current 5A schools Bush and Elkins will drop down to join Marshall, Ridge Point and Willowridge in the lower classification. Clements, Dulles, Kempner, Hightower, Travis and Austin will play in 6A.
O’Neal said the district’s 5A school enrollments will make them competitive but the bigger discrepancy is in the 6A division where enrollment numbers in Fort Bend schools are closer to the bottom of the range.
“It’s a challenge because our 6A schools could possibly face teams in the playoffs like Plano with an enrollment of over 5,000 kids”, O’Neal said.
The UIL had always kept the Fort Bend ISD schools together but in 2012, after the district opened Ridge Point, the high schools were divided into two districts. The change brought some logistical challenges with the three 5A schools, Marshall, Willowridge and Ridge Point, playing schools in Tomball.
“In February, we’re expecting to have six 6A schools and five 5A schools”, said O’Neal. “However it shakes out, we expect to be playing non-district schools that are in close proximity to here.”
With more non-district teams in the mix, scheduling basketball and volleyball games at Wheeler Field House and Hopson Field House will not be easy. O’Neal said the district is looking at the possibility of a hybrid schedule where schools would play some games in their home gym and some games in one of the field houses.