HOUSTON, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for Texas high school activities, addressed multiple tumultuous topics about the future of Texas high school football at the 91st annual Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) convention, ranging from playoff structure to realignment to high school football players’ ability to make money.
UIL executes realignment every two years based on each individual school’s enrollment. This year, leading up to the upcoming 2024 realignment, there have been many questions about the expansion of UIL to create a seventh conference.
UIL Deputy Director Dr. Jamey Harrison, in a THSCA press conference, said plainly that creating the 7A conference is not on the table for the 2024 realignment.
“We don’t have the numbers for a true 7A conference right now,” Dr. Harrison said. “There’s just not enough schools to create an entire conference.”
However, he did not rule out 7A altogether for the future and said the discussions are ongoing about possible options.
“It appears as though, it’s going to be some time before we have enough schools that are significantly larger than most of the others in 6A. Enough to create a true separate conference,” Dr. Harrison said.
During the current high school football off-season, State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) introduced a bill on the Texas House floor addressing equity at the 6A level, saying that there is a divide between rural 6A schools and metropolitan 6A schools in the playoffs.
“As time goes on under this 6A format, more often than not, in fact about 94 percent of the time, the champion in both Division I and Division II all come from the same four counties all of which have more than a million people,” Landgraf said to KMID in April.
Landgraf acknowledged his resolution, which proposed 6A be divided into divisions based on county population, may not be feasible. However, he introduced the bill as a means to spark conversation among high school football leaders.
“People always want better equity when it comes to competition and in particular, post-season competition and everything that goes into it. So that doesn’t just mean when the postseason starts, they want equity to have the opportunity to get into the postseason,” Dr. Harrison said. “So we’ll continue to work with all of our school groups to see if we can find some model outside of just a true 7A.”
Another major topic UIL addressed was high school football players’ ability to make money through their name, image and likeness (NIL), something that has grown at the collegiate level in the past two years.
Again, Dr. Harrison disclosed that those conversations are happening between UIL leaders, however, NIL opportunities will not be allowed for Texas high school football players for now.
Dr. Harrison expressed concern, however, for competing with neighboring states that may begin to allow high schoolers to make money from NIL.
In the same breath, he mentioned that allowing NIL would create more division among high schools in Texas, if one high school were to offer a better NIL deal than another high school.
“You get into this divide between the haves and the have-nots and who can generate the most money,” Dr. Harrison said. “I’m not sure that that’s what high school athletics in Texas is supposed to be.”
According to OpenDorse, an emerging organization that supports and helps build NIL opportunities, 28 states and the District of Columbia allow high school athletes to make money from NIL.
Dr. Harrison stated the UIL will not make any decisions regarding NIL opportunities for Texas high schools unless the state laws regarding NIL change. Texas state law currently prohibits high school football players from benefitting from NIL.
“Because the law would have to change, that’s going to be a decision for our lawmakers and not a decision for UIL,” Dr. Harrison said.
In January, State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) introduced House Bill 1802, allowing Texas high schoolers the opportunity to make money from NIL. The latest movement on the bill, according to Legiscan, is it was referred to the Public Education Committee in March.