Written by Corbett Smith
The bottom line: How realignment can cost a school, its district thousands of dollars
Editor's note: This story originally ran on February 2, 2012.
For the last four years, DeSoto has headed east for district contests in every sport.
While 5A high schools Cedar Hill and Duncanville are within a 10-mile drive, DeSoto has been in a district with three Mesquite schools, Tyler Lee and Longview — the latter two schools more than 100 miles away.
Thursday’s biennial University Interscholastic League realignment might reestablish DeSoto’s neighbors as district rivals. That would be great, DeSoto ISD athletic director Pam DeBorde said, but avoiding trips to Longview and Tyler could be as significant, potentially saving the district thousands of dollars in travel costs.
“And more than that,” DeBorde said, “you’ve got to understand what these parents spend on their gas, and them having to take off from work to get to Tyler. It’s not just about us, it’s about the families. But it’d save us thousands.”
DeSoto isn’t the only school eagerly awaiting the UIL’s release of new districts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons at 9 a.m. this morning.
More than 30 Class 5A and 4A Dallas-Fort Worth -area high schools could be included with districts from Waco to Denison, Abilene to Texarkana.
The UIL does heavily factor travel distance when creating the new districts, but the dearth of larger teams in East and West Texas mean that some schools are probably going to be drawn into districts outside of metropolitan areas.
“I’ve seen us grouped with Waco schools and East Texas schools,” Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert said about several predictions. “I hope we stay where we are.”
Finding geographically close dance partners in the realignment process has long be a chief concern for schools, but even more so with state budget cuts slicing into high school athletics.
Royse City is currently in a district with Texarkana Texas. It’s a 21/2-hour one-way drive. Royse City has used charter buses to take approximately 14 varsity and sub-varsity trips to Texarkana each season at the cost of $1,100 per trip, according to athletic director Greg Strahm.
Charter buses are faster, a key selling point for teams that play mid-week games, Strahm said.
Being placed in a far-reaching district is a frustrating deal for schools in Royse City’s predicament.
“If you drew the lines based on travel, we wouldn’t have to travel more than 30 minutes for any of our games,” Strahm said. “We are in an area saturated with 4A schools.”
Crowley ISD athletic director Charles Lincoln has two schools that could be on the move: Class 5A North Crowley and 4A Crowley.
With one Amarillo and two Lubbock high schools likely dropping to 4A, the UIL will probably create a nine-team district that goes from San Angelo to Amarillo — a 51/2-hour bus ride one way — or attempt to defray some of the travel for the remaining schools by breaking off Abilene and Abilene Cooper to pair with Dallas-Fort Worth -area teams, including North Crowley.
Crowley could potentially be paired with two Waco ISD 4A schools.
“Nowadays, the dollar drives every decision you make as an athletic director,” Lincoln said. “Economically, it’s certainly something we are looking out for.”
Lincoln said his district has contacted its bus provider, Durham School Services, to see if it could use CDL-qualified coaches as drivers to save on travel costs.
He added that Crowley ISD’s administration might choose to petition if it faces too much of a travel burden. Districts have until Feb. 12 to appeal their district assignments.
“Hopefully, [the UIL is] making decisions with sound minds when they choose where to put our kids,” Lincoln said.