What 2024 UIL realignment could mean for Mac

While moving up to 5A Division 1 appears unlikely, changes would alter conferences, districts, rivalries
UIL re-alignment could split McCallums football district, as well as the districts for other sports, essentially in half and put the Knights in competition with schools outside of AISD for the first time in over two years.
UIL re-alignment could split McCallum’s football district, as well as the districts for other sports, essentially in half and put the Knights in competition with schools outside of AISD for the first time in over two years.
Julia Copas

Every two years, the University Interscholastic League looks at a variety of factors, but most importantly enrollment numbers, from its member schools to accurately re-classify and re-align schools to be in athletic districts that provide competitive equity. Competitive equity, the core purpose of re-alignment, is something that Austin ISD high school athletics have lacked for a long time. 

Currently, there is a large disparity in enrollment numbers in AISD high schools. Some schools, like Bowie and Akins, are overenrolled beyond their facilities’ capacity, while others, like LBJ, are underenrolled at less than half of their capacity. 

In McCallum’s current athletic district, five of the nine teams do not have enrollment numbers that align with the classification in which they play. The UIL does allow for school districts to choose to opt up by just one classification, but there are some, like Eastside and LBJ, that jump up two. AISD might support “playing up” for a multitude of reasons, but the most likely one is the desire to reduce transportation costs because of the amount of money AISD loses every year due to House Bill 3, also known as the recapture or “Robin Hood” plan.

Because of recapture, AISD loses nearly $900 million to recapture, or 56% of the district’s projected tax collections. According to a breakdown on the AISD website, 1 cent for every dollar of AISD’s $835 million budget is spent on “other,” which is the category that the majority of athletics spending most likely is in, which would pay for transportation, new uniforms and equipment.  This equates to about $8 million for the entirety of the other” category. To put it in simpler terms, AISD does not have the budget to pay for the expenses that would come with their schools playing in conferences and districts that reflect their enrollment numbers. 

I think it’s clear that we’ve had a lot of success in our district and we are ready for some higher level competition.

— sophomore volleyball captain Lexi Rosenblatt

As the 2024 UIL re-alignment conversation begins to take the forefront of Texas high school sports talk, it’s time to revisit this decision and its impact on AISD  schools. Every single one of McCallum’s sports went to playoffs last year, with multiple undefeated teams. This does not  detract from the accomplishments and skill level of McCallum’s athletes, but the level of achievement is significantly diminished because McCallum plays in a district where the majority of its opponents are not at the same competitive level that McCallum is. This is largely because these schools are historically underserved and have a large population of students that are economically disadvantaged. And while AISD has released a long-range plan and passed bonds that address these issues and hope to eventually solve them, these issues most likely won’t be solved until at least the next re-alignment. So what does this mean in the meantime? 

Playing tough games against good opponents helps with our development as individual players, and helps us be more prepared for the playoffs. Looking at the mock realignment, I see some really solid opponents that could really push us into close and competitive games.

— sophomore basketball captain Ethan Plummer

UIL Snapshot day was on Oct. 20, which is when the UIL collects data from its member school districts around the state, using whatever the schools’ enrollment was on that day as the baseline for re-alignment. On Sept. 7, principal Andy Baxa announced to parents at the first parent-principal meeting that McCallum’s enrollment was at around 1,950, which would put us in 5A Division I. However, on Dec. 5, the UIL released its official enrollment numbers that they were given on Snapshot day. The official enrollment number that the UIL was given for McCallum was 1,854, keeping us in 5A Division II. 

For football, here’s where AISD schools could land, based on current information and what is most likely going to happen. 

For all other sports, the conferences aren’t split up into divisions, so Anderson would be thrown into the 5A mix with McCallum, LASA, Navarro and Crockett. Sophomore volleyball captain Lexi Rosenblatt says that these changes will ultimately be good for the volleyball program and she anticipates what’s to come. 

“I can only speak for volleyball, but I think it’s clear that we’ve had a lot of success in our district, and we are ready for some higher level competition,” Rosenblatt said. “We’re more than capable of playing tougher teams than we have been for the past few years. It may take a year or two to adjust, but I have no doubt that we will be able to compete.”

Sophomore basketball captain Ethan Plummer echoed Rosenblatt’s sentiments. 

“I feel like there have been times where we have games against teams that aren’t quite the highest level of an opponent, and to me, that can limit our progression throughout the season,” Plummer said. “Playing tough games against good opponents helps with our development as individual players, and helps us be more prepared for the playoffs. Looking at the mock realignment, I see some really solid opponents that could really push us into close and competitive games.” 

Ultimately, we won’t know exactly where McCallum will land until Feb. 1. But for now, the Knights have to focus on the current season ahead. Although it might be the last year playing some teams, the goal is to beat them first.

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