A deep dive into UIL's split division playoff format, how it affects West Texas sports

The 2024-25 high school sports year will mark a lot of significant changes in several UIL sports.

The University Interscholastic League's Legislative Council voted Tuesday to approve an amendment to the current playoff format across several classifications in team sports including volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball and baseball.

The changes will split the divisions for postseason play for Class 1A-6A basketball, 4A-6A soccer and 2A-6A in volleyball, baseball and softball. The change creates two state championship brackets for teams to qualify for the postseason in each qualifying classification.

Starting on Aug. 1, the affected sports and classes will mirror the playoff format of 6A football teams, effectively doubling the number of state titles awarded in soccer, volleyball softball and baseball.

Currently, Classes 1A-5A in football are split into separate divisions at each realignment cycle, making for 10 separate divisions and playoff brackets.

Class 6A districts operate differently in that all its football teams are included in one division during the regular season. However, once the playoff qualifiers are set and districts are finalized, the two qualifiers from each district with the larger enrollment figures go to the 6A Division I bracket. In contrast, the two smaller schools by enrollment go to the 6A Division II bracket.

For example, Reagan County, Forsan, Eldorado and Sterling City finished as the top four in District 7-2A's boys basketball standings this past season, qualifying for the postseason.

Under the new structure, Reagan County (232) and Forsan (227) would have qualified for the 2A Division I bracket based on their enrollment numbers at the time of the 2022 realignment. Eldorado (145) and Sterling City (104) would have made the 2A Division II bracket with their lower enrollment figures.

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The enrollment figures gatherd on Snapshot Day in October 2023 used for the UIL's 2024-26 reclassification will be used to determine which playoff qualifiers go to Division I and Division II brackets from their respective districts.

Seeding will still be determined by comparing records between the two teams heading to each bracket with tiebreakers used as needed.

The newly assigned districts in the latest 2024 realignment cycle will not be altered because of the new rule, as it will only affect playoff positioning.

There are a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out, however.

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Splitting into two playoff brackets will cut each bracket's postseason field in half, going from 128 qualifiers to 64 in the new format. Like in football, this could mean eliminating one round of the playoffs, going from a seven-round format to a six-round format.

As of now, the UIL has not said how the ruling will affect the regional and state tournaments, but the picture will become clear as the high school sports season ramps up in early August.

This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: How UIL's split division playoff format affects West Texas sports