Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Enrollment tilts the field for 5A and 4A's biggest, smallest schools
When the University Interscholastic League posted its 2012-14 realignment, McKinney football coach Jeff Smith put a positive spin on it. For his players, he said, it would be an exciting challenge to be in a district with the state’s four largest high schools.
“We didn’t want to make excuses,” Smith said this week.
But McKinney certainly could be excused for requesting an asterisk next to its 1-6 district record over the last two years. McKinney, which reported an enrollment of 2,121 for the realignment, is in District 10-5A with Plano East (enrollment of 6,015), Allen (5,388), Plano (5,314), Plano West (4,944) and McKinney Boyd (2,900).
A challenge, no doubt. But the excitement wanes when a playoff berth means beating at least two schools with more than twice your enrollment.
For schools toiling against larger neighbors, the chance of a fresh start begins with “Snapshot Day” on Friday. That’s when schools send their day’s enrollment figures to the UIL for its next realignment.
And then hope for the best.
“We’re pretty much the same size as before, maybe a little smaller,” Smith said. “It just depends on how that number falls.”
It can determine how a lot of things fall into place for an athletic program. It’s true in all sports, but especially football, a sport that requires a lot of players. A larger pool of potential players is a key to success.
The 10 largest Dallas-area 5A schools have enrollments greater than 3,250. In 21 games this season against 5A schools with enrollments of less than 2,500, the big schools have lost only three times. The only smaller 5A schools to win the enrollment mismatches were Mesquite Horn, which beat Duncanville, and Cedar Hill, with wins over Duncanville and South Grand Prairie.
Horn (2,219) and Cedar Hill (2,145) are good examples of programs that win consistently without large enrollments. Cedar Hill won the 5A Division II title in 2006 and was runner-up last year.
But it’s simply tougher to win when a school teetering on an enrollment cutoff falls into the bigger category.
“That number can certainly sway the mood of an entire program,” said Kevin Wilson, who coaches Terrell, one of the state’s smallest 4A schools. “I’ve heard coaches say that when they saw the realignment, they put their résumés together and took off because they knew they wouldn’t be able to compete.”
Coaches will know sooner this year because the UIL is going to release the enrollment cutoff numbers in November or December. The new districts will be unveiled in February.
Wilson, a longtime Stephenville assistant who became Terrell’s head coach last year, expects Terrell to still be in 4A. His school, with a 2012-14 enrollment figure of 1,052, is in District 10-4A with Carrollton Newman Smith (2,083), Carrollton Creekview (2,037) and Highland Park (2,028).
Terrell is 2-5 this season and was winless a year ago. The enrollment disparity plays into that, but like McKinney’s Smith, Wilson doesn’t want to make excuses.
“You want to instill in your kids that they can overcome it,” Wilson. “When the whistle blows, they get 11 guys on a side and we get 11 on a side.”
But the playing field is definitely tilted in one direction.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
Football requires lots of players, and a school’s enrollment can have a big effect on wins and losses. A comparison of the 10 largest and smallest Dallas-area schools in Classes 5A and 4A, as based on their enrollment figures for the 2012-14 UIL realignment.
(UIL enrollment range for 2012-14: 2,090+)
Plano East (6,015)
Plano West (4,944)
Arlington Martin (3,333)
South Grand Prairie (3,324)
Overall record this season: 47-22
Rec. vs. 5A schools with enrollment less than 2,500: 18-3
South Garland (2,028)*
North Garland (2,105)
Denton Ryan (2,125)
Richardson Pearce (2,130)
Carr. R.L. Turner (2,132)
Cedar Hill (2,145)
*Had 4A enrollment, but requested elevation to 5A
Overall record this season: 28-42
Rec vs. 5A schools with enrollment of more than 2,800: 4-14
(UIL enrollment range for 2012-2014: 1,005-2,089)
Carr. Newman Smith (2,083)
Mansfield Summit (2,067)
Denton Guyer (2,064)
Mansfield Legacy (2,050)
Carr. Creekview (2,037)
Highland Park (2,028)
TC Byron Nelson (1,917)
The Colony (1,923)
Overall record this season: 49-24
Rec. vs. 4A schools with enrollment less than 1,400): 15-7
North Forney (1,031)
Lake Dallas (1,230)
*Had 3A enrollment, but requested elevation to 4A
Overall record this season: 38-32
Rec. vs. 4A schools with enrollment of more than 1,750: 7-11