The UIL Legislative Council streamlined the future football playoff process for Class 5A on Monday.
During its annual fall meetings in Round Rock, the council passed a measure giving home-field advantage to the higher seed in the bi-district round of the postseason. The new rule takes effect in 2018.
This follows the pilot program that has been used in Class 6A for the past three years, where only the district champion hosted the bi-district round. That will continue.
It’s a welcomed move by area 5A head football coaches and administrators.
“We’re definitely for it,” Northwest ISD Athletic Director Joel Johnson said. “No. 1, it just makes sense that if you finish higher in the district, it’s a reward for your efforts, especially if you’re the district champion. Secondly, you have a chance at a bigger crowd.”
The move also paving the way for the 5A split that will take place for the 2018 realignment. Division I and Division II will still field four playoff teams that would be in the same bracket. The number of playoff teams in 5A will now double. That also means the number of available facilities to host a playoff game presents a challenge.
Realignment numbers are due to the UIL by Oct. 27. The UIL said that a cut-off number on the split could be announced between mid-to-late November. The conventional thinking is that the number could fall from 1,750-1,800.
Because of the 6A rule, 5A teams were finding it more difficult to play at such popular locations including Carroll’s Dragon Stadium, Denton’s C.H. Collins Complex and Allen’s new Eagle Stadium, because more often than not, those stadiums were being used by the owner.
“It’s not a big deal on our end, because we usually like to lock everything up by Thursday,” said Aledo head coach Steve Wood, whose program is in line to make its 22nd consecutive playoff berth. “But it’s good to know you have this option available.”
Grapevine coach Mike Alexander said the 2016 bi-district game with Fort Worth Southwest was nearly forced to move from Pennington Field in Bedford, because they played their game the same night when Euless Trinity played at Allen.
There is still an option that if logistics are an issue with the hosting team, a neutral site can be agreed upon by both schools. There is also a clause in the rule that states, “If the opponents have the same district finish, the two teams will flip a coin or agree on a neutral site.” A UIL spokesperson said that would be for any extraordinary circumstances.
Cost and travel enter into this rule. It may be more helpful to urban districts than rural districts. But that will be well-defined at realignment.
However, this gives hosting schools a chance to sell an extra game to season ticket holders. When Trophy Club Byron Nelson played at Allen in 2015, Johnson said he talked with Allen officials about how they made it work.
Season ticket holders had the first choice at buying tickets to the game for the first 48-72 hours After that, the rest of the seats were opened to the public. Both schools will still split the revenue from ticket sales, concession sales and parking.
“You just don’t want to spend way too much for a bi-district playoff game,” Alexander said. “With so many games going on, it’s hard. It gets harder when you have to wait around until Friday evening of the final week of the season to find a place to play.”