With the start of the 2018-19 school year, Cy-Fair ISD athletes are preparing to compete against non-CFISD teams for the first time since 2007.
The University Interscholastic League—which oversees athletic, music and academic contests within the Texas public school system—announced in February that all CFISD athletic programs would be split into two separate competitive districts as part of its 2018-20 realignment process. Each district contains nine teams, most of which are from CFISD, but also includes schools from Spring Branch, Tomball and Bryan ISDs.
The split affects about 20,000 high school athletes and their 700 coaches, CFISD Director of Athletics Ray Zepeda said. He said in the last several seasons, the internal competition has limited the ability of some programs to qualify for the state playoffs.
“We believe that this split will allow more programs, teams and athletes to have a greater chance of regular season success that will culminate in more CFISD teams making the playoffs,” he said. “The cons for our schools and our department involve increased travel, planning and generally being unfamiliar with some of the schools that we will be matched up against in the state playoffs.”
The move was spurred by the opening of the district’s 11th and 12th high schools—Cypress Park High School in 2016 and Bridgeland High School in 2017. CFISD teams previously competed as a part of a self-contained league, but after the new schools opened, the district became too large, officials said.
Since the announcement of the split, the athletics department has been reviewing policies and procedures with the districts they will be competing against over the next two years, Zepeda said. He said officials have also worked to identify potential playoff sites in Region II, where seven CFISD schools are competing in a district with Tomball Memorial and Bryan high schools.
In a Region III district, Cy-Fair, Cypress Creek, Cypress Ridge, Cypress Falls and Jersey Village high schools have been joined by four Spring Branch ISD schools—Memorial, Northbrook, Spring Woods and Stratford high schools.
“I believe that the UIL was exceedingly fair with us given the challenge involved with the process and the size of our district,” Zepeda said. “Region III has been very crowded over the past few realignments, and the result has been that more Houston-area schools and school districts are being shifted into Region II.”
In June, CFISD’s board of trustees approved a $932 million budget for 2018-19, which included $600,000 for costs related to the UIL realignment. Zepeda said these funds will cover increased transportation to competitions and lodging and meal expenses when traveling outside the area.
Within the department, coaches and staff focus on excellence in athletics, academics and community services, Zepeda said. This year Zepeda said he would like to exceed the current 46 percent of student-athletes making the A/B honor roll and decrease the current 8 percent failure rate.
The department has also launched a new initiative called “Game Day the Right Way,” to improve sportsmanship and atmosphere at CFISD games, Zepeda said.
“We hope that we can get our athletes, coaches and our parents [and]spectators [to]realize that interscholastic athletics should be a place where we can compete in a positive way and to treat all with respect,” Zepeda said.
With seven CFISD teams winning state championships in the last five years, Zepeda said the realignment brings opportunity for more success—especially from varsity football, basketball and volleyball teams that have a chance to advance in the playoffs.
“We are of the mindset that challenges that are placed in front of us lead to positive growth for our programs,” he said. “We hope that the challenges associated with realignment will allow us to continue to improve our opportunities for success for all here in CFISD.”