UIL Playoffs for Dummies



The next six weeks are like Christmas for fans of Texas high school football. Starting late Friday night when the brackets could go from ‘projected’ to official, coaches and fans could finally try to make sense of the lay of the land. 576 teams from all corners of the state will begin competing Thursday for the 12 University Interscholastic League (UIL) state championships. Private schools, with the exception of the two playing UIL started their tournaments last week.  Unlike most places, each game site and officiating crew is predetermined by the coaches of the competing teams. Most often the games are played at a neutral site. The more popular sites may be used more than once on a weekend giving fans the added bonus of seeing multiple games during the weekend. For example, in Dallas this weekend, eight 5A games will be held at Cowboy Stadium.

UIL football Tournament basics:

Classifications:  1A through 5A are the five classifications based on school enrollment. Each classification is further divided into D-1 and D-2 also theoretically by enrollment. 1A schools may also chose to play 6-man football instead of 11, creating two additional 1A brackets. 12 champions will be determined. Six-man football division one and two will play their championships the weekend on Saturday, December 15th in Abilene.  All ten of the remaining championships, 1A through 5A D-1 & D-2, will be played in Cowboy Stadium in Arlington; 3A, D-1 on December 14th, the other 9, to be played in three tripleheaders December 20-22.

Divisions: Like classifications, divisions are theoretically grouped by school enrollment,  5A D-1 for the largest schools all the way down to 6-man D-2. Determining who will qualify among the small schools, six-man through 2A is very straightforward. Districts or leagues are built geographically and by enrollment and the top two from each district is plugged into the bracket.

3 to 5A is where things get confusing. During the regular season there are no 5, 4 or 3A divisions. Teams are grouped into districts based on proximity to the other similar sized schools. After district play, the top four (3 in 3A) are inserted into a bracket based on the enrollment of each qualifier in their district. The district schools with the top two enrollments go D-1 and the schools with the lower go D-2 (in 3A it’s one D-1 team& two D-2 teams). Since some districts have much larger schools than others this arrangement creates a lot of issues.

District 10-5A is the most glaring example of this. 10-5A is home to four of the largest schools in the state; Plano East (6016 enrollment), Plano (5315), Allen (5833) and Plano West (4945). With both Allen and Plano making the playoffs, Plano West will play in the D-2 bracket despite having more students than all but two of the D-1 schools. During the final weeks, many teams, even clinched district champions, must scoreboard watch to find out if they will be going D-1 or D-2. It’s completely out of their hands, but may well be the difference between a championship and an early exit.


Districts: In most states known as leagues. 5A though 3A each have 32 districts across the state of Texas. 2 and 1A have 16.

Regions: The districts are grouped into 4 geographic regions, starting in the far west part of the state. Region I (districts 1-8) begins in Far West Texas (El Paso) and include the west and northwest part of the state to the west part of the DFW Metroplex, Region II (districts 9-16), include the rest of the Metroplex, parts of central Texas and East Texas to the Louisiana and Oklahoma border. Region III (districts 17-24) is Houston and part of Central Texas. Region IV (districts 25-32) is San Antonio and all of South Texas. These regions are not absolute and vary somewhat by classification. They also change every two years when the UIL realigns.

Realignment: In even number years, classifications, districts and regions are realigned based on updated enrollment figures. In the big-city suburbs, schools can quickly move up or down based on new development and school openings. In much of rural Texas, schools are generally shrinking as the population shifts to those suburbs.

Brackets: These look exactly like NCAA basketball brackets. The teams are plugged in according to their district and whether they are one or two seed in such an arrangement where the district 1 top seed will open against the district 2- # 2 and so on. The talent in certain districts is far tougher than in others so the road to a championship is very much up to a teams’ position on the bracket. The top two teams in the state may face off in the first round while another contender skates though the early rounds against easier opponents. Like the division separation, a teams’ draw in the bracket is uncontrollable and has a lot to do with ultimate success.

If you get the idea luck plays a big role in winning a championship, you’ve got my point. Officials’ calls, injuries, seeding and the bounce of the ball all need to go a teams’ way for them to survive though such a tough field. This isn’t to say the teams who make it to the title are unworthy. Winning six games in a row is never easy, but gets even tougher when each win means a more pressure packed game against a team who’ve also made it through the gauntlet.

Probably not my most interesting post, but I hope explained what’s coming up from now through December 22nd.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “UIL Playoffs for Dummies

  1. Bobby Johnson

    You had done some amazing work. I’m somewhat envious of this “Road Trip” to say the least. I’m truley happy for you to have this opportunity. Do you have conections at Cowboy Stadium? If not let me know I maybe of some help. As you probally have seen AHS will play to the east starting the 2nd round. We are looking at a fair chance of the D2-5A regional championship being played here in Abilene. Again great work! Stat in contact as playoffs progress.
    Bobby Johnson

    • Thanks Bobby. Hopefully I can make it to the AHS 2nd round game. I’m hoping to get back to West Texas during the week after Thanksgiving. I will make sure to let you know of my plans. Good luck with Montwood in Odessa Saturday!

  2. You have probably notice that with the divisions and so many teams making the playoffs can also result in very uneven pairing. For example Katy High School with a record of 10-0 for the season is playing Houston Westbury with an overall record of 3–7 in the bi-district game this Thursday. It should be interesting.

    • Yes, I probably should have added in the post that with 4 teams making the playoff out of districts with only 7 teams, there are some incredible mismatches in the early rounds. Will Katy have a single tough game in the Region 3 Bracket?

  3. Langham Creek will be a good opponent and after that La Porte or anyone who eliminates them. As the play off season progresses the teams just get tougher. This is what High School Football is all about and often makes true the statement “Any team can beat any other team on any given night.” This late in the season injuries are a factor but on the other hand well coached teams are at the peak of their performance.

    • I haven’t got the chance to see the Houston area teams much. Just La Marque once and then Katy-Klein during zero week. The whole thing is going to be very exciting and for people who care about HS football I can’t imagine a better setup. From the teams, the support, the venues and the variety of demographic and school size. I haven’t even seen a game yet, but it can’t get any better than this.

  4. Follow up: Katy 77 – Westbury 7

  5. Dave pickren

    Can you explain how the location is selected for each game. I noticed that some sites are more neutral than others

    • All games, except for the championships are picked by coaches agreement. The two coaches will discuss it the week before and come up with a neutral site they both agree upon. The coaches may also decide to do it at one of the home fields and settle which home with a “coin flip”. Interesting way they do the flip. Can’t do a random flip over the phone, so coach A will name a random school in Texas, coach B will declare even or odd, they take out the school directory book, if the zip code is an even number and coach B said “even” then he wins the flip.

  6. I have a question. How does the playoff coin flips work in high school football? Last year Gregory Portland played all their playoff games at neutral sites. If they win Friday night against Moody they are in against Somerset. Now last year Somerset did a home/away flip with Calallen and won for the first round. So this year does Somerset play their opening round game away or will there be another coin flip? Or anyone that has input on this please let me know.

    • Danny,

      I’m not exactly sure, but usuallywhen teams agree to forgo a neutral site, a home and home is arranged… So a Calallen.Somerset site should only be a factor if they played again. It’s always up to the coaches of the two teams to make an agreement… Either a home and home with this year’s game being decided by a coin flip or an agreed upon neutral site… I hope this helps.

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