Lions coach looks ahead to realignment


The 2023 football season has barely concluded for the Brownwood Lions, but preparation for 2024 – at least in terms of the schedule – is already underway with UIL realignment projections being released over the last few weeks.

Multiple high school sports outlets, such as Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and the Padilla Poll, are predicting the Lions will drop from the Class 4A Division I ranks to Class 4A Division II, a development many weren’t anticipating until recently.

Brownwood High School turned in an official enrollment of 960 on UIL Snapshot Day in late October, and the aforementioned prognosticators are expecting the cutoff line between 4A Division I and 4A Division II to be 990 students. During the last realignment, the cutoff number was 880 which led most to believe Brownwood would safely be in 4A Division I at least for two more years.

“I’ve also seen a projection on that at 955 students, so we could be one of the bigger Division II schools or one of the smaller Division I schools, but you’re really guessing when you’re talking about the UIL because they don’t anything out until it’s their time,” said Brownwood Lions head football and athletic director Sammy Burnett. “When you have so much growth with 5A and 6A schools in the metropolitan areas, that’s what bumping up the numbers. We saw a larger increase last time which was much higher than I’d ever seen. In the past, sometimes zero was the move or 5, 10, maybe 20 people, but last time we jumped 60. But I understand why that’s happening with the number of larger schools and trying to balance out each classification.”

Along with the division projections, DCTF and the Padilla Poll also shared district projections.

DCTF has placed Brownwood in District 4-4A Division II along with current state semifinalist Glen Rose, Godley, Mineral Wells and Brock, which appears to be moving up from 3A Division I. The Padilla Poll expects the Lions to land in District 3-4A Division II with Glen Rose, Godley, Mineral Wells and Brock, as well as Graham in a six-team league, which would move Brownwood’s bye to Week 6 and out of the middle of league play.

“That’s a pretty stout little district there,” Burnett said. “From projections, if you can make it through that district you have a good chance in the region.”

If these predictions come to pass, other teams in Region I of 4A Division II could include the Lions’ current District 2-4A Division I rival Lubbock Estacado, the new Lubbock Cooper Liberty High School, Levelland, Borger, Seminole, Midland Greenwood, Fort Stockton, Snyder, Monahans, Lake Worth, Burkburnett, Gainesville, Saginaw Eagle Mountain and Bridgeport. Perryton and Krum have also been included as possible 4A Division II candidates that could reside in Region I.

Being one of the larger 4A Division II schools opposed to being on the small side in 4A Division I could be a major advantage for the Lions the next two seasons, according to Burnett.

“The difference between us and most 4A Division I schools right now is we put about 32 to 37 kids on the field and we have a lot kids going both ways, where as when you have 55 to 60 kids like a lot of 4A Division I schools do, they don’t have many kids playing both sides of the ball,” Burnett said. “By the fourth quarter, we’ve got kids that have played 100 plays and the other teams have kids that have played 50 so they’re fresher because it’s a fact that when you’re working twice as hard you get a little more tired. Being 4A Division II would balance that a little bit which would be neat. Whatever it is, Division I or Division II, we’re willing to go. But to be honest, if I had a preference, it would be 4A Division II because it gives our kids a better playing scale when you’re matching up rosters. Playing 35 against 35 makes a big difference compared to playing 35 against 60.”

The division cutoffs will likely be released before Christmas, as has been the case since the UIL began this exercise, and possibly as early as this Friday. What regions and districts schools will reside in will remain unknown until Feb. 1, 2024. But the expected change in divisions has led to scheduling issues for Brownwood, as Burnett had been in talks with many of the teams projected to be in the Lions’ future district about non-district contests.

“The difficulty of not knowing where we’re going to be, 4A Division I or 4A Division II, is finding games,” Burnett said. “As of right now I don’t have any. I’ve reached out to a lot of people and they either don’t want to play or their schedule is already full. I’m really struggling with that but I’ll continue to work on that until Feb. 1. If you don’t have it lined up by that day, it’s just grab what you can. People scramble for games that day and if you haven’t filled your schedule by around noon, you’re probably not going to find them. If we don’t have our schedule complete before then we’ll send coaches to all four regions. I’ve reached out to everyone I know from 3A Division I to 5A Division II, so hopefully some games will start trickling in and we can get our schedule filled.”