It could be a huge moment for Lake Highlands athletics when the clock strikes 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. That’s when the UIL reveals its district alignments for the next two academic years, 2010-11 and 2011-12. What district LH is placed in could affect everything from competitive issues to travel costs.

No one tracks realignment better than TheOldCoach.com, a Rivals network website. Matthew Stepp, aka "Little Matt" has spent months gathering information about realignment, including enrollment figures (ADMs) the UIL used to place teams in various classifications. Matt has agreed to answer a few questions about how realignment could affect Lake Highlands: 

Q: Most of the speculation has Lake Highlands either maintaining the status quo in a district with the Dallas ISD schools, or returning to the traditional alignment with the Plano schools. Which alignment has the most merit?
A: The alignment with the most merit in my view is the status quo with DISD.  A lot of odd things would need to happen for RISD to back w/Plano, Allen, et al. RISD is a good geographic fit with DISD and in my view the success of the RISD schools in football especially,  makes it a favorable realignment.  I also think other districts, mainly the I-20 suburbs have little desire to play with DISD and I think the UIL views the Richardson/Dallas marriage as one of convienience.  
 
Q: What is the likelihood of Creekview or Molina dropping to 4A and how does either potentially affect Lake Highlands’ district alignment?
A: Molina will drop to 4A, I spoke to their head coach and he advised me they will not opt up to Class 5A unlike the 2008 alignment when Molina made a curious decision to opt up.  Molina turned in an ADM of 1709 which is a solid 4A number.  Creekview is a bit dicier, they are one of the largest 245 schools in the state with an ADM of 2058, however with several schools expected to opt up it pushes the dividing line down some.   

We expect three schools in the Fort Bend ISD outside of Houston to petition to play up to Class 5A with 4A numbers along with three schools in Laredo and a school in the Cy Fair ISD outside of Houston.  The real key to this scenario is Austin Anderson, their coach has advised us they will opt up despite a 4A number of 1983.  Anderson has no real travel concerns as their is an Austin ISD 4A district they easily fit into, so the question is will the UIL allow them to petition up? Past protocol has said the UIL will grant the request but will this realignment change? That will be the key as we have Creekview as the largest 4A in the state, so one opt up literally will make or break Creekview potentially.  That in essence is the beauty of realignment in that a school in Austin has a ripple effect over the whole state, which is why when you project realignment you have to view it as a whole and not just the DFW area.

Q: What scenario could result in Lake Highlands, Berkner and Richardson re-joining the Plano and Allen schools?
A: The Richardson schools joining back with Plano ISD and Allen is the second most likely scenario aside from joining back with DISD.  Wylie is the key here, despite opening a second high school (Wylie East) Wylie turned in an ADM of 2061 which in our realignment has them as a small 5A.  If somehow Wylie winds up in 4A we could see an eight team district with RISD, PISD, Allen and McKinney Boyd.  The real question at that point comes to what happens to DISD and Jesuit?? We could see them paired possibly with Irving ISD or Grand Prairie ISD at that point. 
 
Q: Any other possibilities for Lake Highlands, Berkner and Richardson (assuming Pearce stays 4A)? Could changes in East Texas put the RISD in with the Mesquite schools? Any chance Garland could see changes that would result in a Garland/Richardson district?
A: I think Pearce is safely 4A, their ADM is 1966 expect them back with Highland Park and the two Rockwall schools.  If all but one of the East Texas schools dropped to 4A I think RISD and Mesquite ISD is a possible scenario, however as long as there’s at least two East Texas teams I don’t see it happening.  We expect John Tyler to drop to 4A but Longview is at 2087 which appears will bring them back to 5A.  In two to four years I could see a RISD/MISD and Tyler Lee district if Longview’s enrollment drops a little and brings them back to 4A.  A ten team RISD/GISD district is unlikely.  For some reason Homer B. Johnson longtime GISD athletic director has always had the ball bounce his way come realignment and he’s adamant that Garland continue to have their own district. If another RISD school went 4A I could see a 7/2 split but its still a longshot.  All seven Garland ISD schools appear to be solid in 5A this time. 
 
Q: Any chance Lake Highlands could drop to 4A, if not in this realignment but in the foreseeable future? Is the 5A-4A dividing line going up or down in the next decade?
A: After nearly 20 years of a steady climb in the 5A/4A cutoff the line appears to be dropping in 2010.  A lot of things are factoring into this, mainly the economy and the fact that 90% of the new high schools opening up across the state are starting at either 4A or 3A.  In most cases when a new school opens it turns one 5A into two 4A’s thus diluting the size in 5A.  I believe under the current format this trend will continue and we’ll see the 5A/4A cut line stay in the 2050-2100 range.  If the format changes where the Division 1/Division 2 concept we are seeing in Class 1A and 2A expands or the much talked about Class 6A comes to pass then all bets are off! Lake Highlands at 2287 is the smallest RISD 5A so if enrollment trends drop it is plausible in 2014 possibly that LHHS threatens the 4A number.

For more discussion of UIL realignment, visit The Old Coach’s DFW Metroplex Forum.