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February 1, 2012

2012 UIL REALIGNMENT: On the bubble

Might Kemp be headed for a splashdown in 2A with Malakoff, Eustace?

KEMP — Athletic directors don’t typically admit it when they are hoping for a drop in classification on what is known as “Realignment Day” across Texas.

Count among that bunch Kemp athletic director and head football coach Greg Anderson, whose school is rumored to be on its way down to Class 2A for the first time.

If Kemp were to stay in Class 3A — where it has struggled in many of the major varsity sports lately — he said, “that’s something we’re never going to use as an excuse.”

But the truth is, when the University Interscholastic League releases its biennial realignment list Thursday morning at 9 a.m., Anderson isn’t going to be the least bit disappointed to see his district listed among other Class 2A schools.

“You can never be exactly sure what you’re going to get,” Anderson said. “Every realignment there’s always a little excitement.”

Every two years, the UIL — the governing body of public high school sports in Texas — realigns each of its districts in an effort to allow similar-sized schools to compete against each other. UIL uses enrollment figures submitted by members schools in October to create its new alignments.

Many coaches consider Class 3A to have the widest disparity from top to bottom. That can create fewer athletes to compete, and in turn, lead to struggles on the playing field.

Kemp knows the feeling, having made the football playoffs only once (2008) in the past 14 seasons and struggling in nearly every sport with the exception of girls varsity basketball. District officials have hope, however, that its high school enrollment number of 439 will be enough to push them into 2A. Anderson said last week the number was down to 424, but only the 439 number on “snapshot” day in October will be used in UIL’s formula.

During the last realignment, in 2010, the Class 3A cutoff number was 430 — leaving Kemp and its 501 students safely in 3A for two more years.

But with a number of new schools scheduled to open in the higher classifications, many prognosticators believe the numbers will shift enough to send Kemp to 2A. Among those are the esteemed Padilla Poll, run by Carl Padilla. Prior to each realignment, he issues projected realignments based on a thorough study of enrollment numbers.

This time around, Padilla has pegged Kemp to drop to 2A (although he Tweeted earlier this week that he is now hearing the cutoff number could be at 435). But for that to happen, the cutoff number at the bottom of the scale in 3A would have to shift by 10 or more — something that hasn’t happened since it went up by 15 in 2008.

“The fact is, the way 3A is set up now, a school in the 430s can be playing schools in the 930s,” Anderson noted. “That can certainly put you at a big disadvantage.”

Dropping down in classification, however, doesn’t always mean newfound success. Just ask Cross Roads.

After competing in Class 2A for two decades, Cross Roads finally dropped into the 1A bracket in 2006.

While the school’s volleyball, baseball and softball teams have been legitimate state title contenders since, the football program has struggled to a 10-50 record over the same span. But in a cruel twist of realignment fate, the Bobcats have been aligned in a district over those six seasons with four state champions (Alto in 2006 and 2007, Cayuga in 2009 and Mart in 2010), a state semifinalist (Cayuga in 2008) and a state semifinalist (Mart in 2011).

Most other districts in the Henderson County area consider themselves to be safe from moving up — including Mabank, which has moved up or down in four of the past five realignments.

However, the UIL always seems to find a way to cause quite a bit of head-scratching with its district realignments.

Malakoff went to itching in 2010 when it didn’t get put in a district with new-to-2A Eustace — which is about 10 miles away — and into a district that included Trinity (a four-hour, 220-mile round trip).

Athens athletic director and head coach Paul Essary said he feels the Hornets’ district, 17-3A, could stay relatively the same. It has included Brownsboro, state champion Chapel Hill, Rusk and Bullard. But he said he also feels like it could easily shift south to include Athens in a district with the likes of Palestine, Palestine Westwood and possibly even Fairfield.

Essary, like every other coach in the state, will be ready to jump when realignment is released so he can see if the teams he had scheduled to play in non-district end up in his district.

“I am trying to get a non-district schedule that is a little more travel-friendly for the fans,” Essary said. “Even though our fans travel well, some of our trips were still a long haul.”

He references trips over the past two years to Fort Worth Nolan, Diboll and Huntington.

While Essary’s intentions are good, he knows one thing about Realignment Day — that nobody really knows what is going to happen.

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