McAllen ISD makes jump to 5A in UIL realignment

After months of speculation, McAllen ISD’s three flagship high schools — McAllen High, McAllen Memorial and McAllen Rowe — officially began their transition to 5A when the University Interscholastic League revealed new district realignments for the 2020-22 school years Monday morning at the Harlingen CISD Aquatics Center.

The Bulldogs, Mustangs and Warriors will transition from District 30-6A to District 16-5A DI in football and District 31-5A in basketball and volleyball for the start of the next school year.

McHi, Memorial and Rowe all came in narrowly under the new cutoff numbers established by the UIL for this most recent round of realignment. The UIL raised the cutoff for Class 6A schools to enrollments of 2,220 students or more, putting the three McAllen schools within 100 students each of meeting that threshold.

The silver lining for the Bulldogs, Mustangs and Warriors, however, is that all three managed to remain in the same district grouping after making the move to 5A, which wasn’t necessarily anticipated by those involved.

“It just worked out that way. I’m not sure that we look at it any particular way, shape or form,” McAllen Rowe head football coach and athletic coordinator Bobby Flores said. “It’s worked out for us, so we’ve always been together. The rivalries are going to be there, those are always big for the city and community, so that’s good.”

The transition will bring about several profound changes for the McAllen schools and others, though.

The void left by McHi, Memorial and Rowe effectively cannibalized District 31-6A, a move that at least in football results in one less district and four fewer playoff teams.

The Bulldogs, Mustangs and Warriors will battle on the gridiron in District 16-5A DI against Brownsville Lopez, Brownsville Pace, Brownsville Porter, Brownsville Veterans, Donna High, La Joya Palmview and Weslaco East.

“It went like we thought,” McAllen Memorial head football coach and athletic coordinator Bill Littleton said. “We knew there were one or two possibilities, and it went like we thought: a 10-team district all in the Valley. Travel was not a very severe (change), so that’s a good thing.”

“We’re excited to get some new teams in the district,” Flores said. “I didn’t foresee it being a 10-team district, but it’s good to have some news teams and we’re just going to be excited to get started.”

The 10-team football district should make for some intriguing matchups and storylines once the fall rolls around. The district will feature all four schools transitioning from 6A to 5A — McHi, Memorial, Rowe and Weslaco East — three of whom advanced to the second or third round of the 6A playoffs a year ago.

In total, five of the district’s 10 squads will be looking to make return trips to the playoffs.

“I think varsity football here in the Valley has gotten better year to year, so this year is going to be no different. We have 10 teams, so each week is going to be a different challenge, and we’re going to have to see different offenses and defenses and prepare,” Flores said. “I think the district we were in last year also had a lot of tough teams, so it’s just a matter of staying healthy and getting ready to travel a little bit because we’re going further than we used to.”

For basketball and volleyball as well as many other team sports, McHi, Memorial and Rowe will join PSJA Memorial, PSJA Southwest, Sharyland High, Sharyland Pioneer and Valley View to form the eight-team District 31-5A.

“There are some good teams everywhere. We’ve got some good opponents, and we know that,” Littleton said. “We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to work hard. No matter whether you’re 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A, there’s always competition.”

The shakeup should start some highly competitive new rivalries in several sports and boost the intensity of competition across the board.

Six of the district’s eight schools are fresh off appearances in the state volleyball playoffs, and the Bulldogs, Diamondbacks and Mustangs each went at least two rounds deep.

Also on the hardwood, Pioneer should be primed for huge new basketball rivalries against the Rowe boys and Memorial girls. Those four teams have combined to go 39-1 in their respective district competition this season.

The move will also set up momentous matchups on the pitch between McHi, Memorial, Rowe and Valley View.

“I look at it the same way: there’s a lot of competition. Sharyland obviously has always been good at all their sports, but that 5A group has all been getting better. They’ve got good coaches, good kids and everybody presses to get better year after year,” Flores said. “Of course, in basketball and volleyball we’ve been with the McAllens. Now we’re going to branch out a little bit to have a little different look, but we’ll just take it one week at a time.”