By LANCE FLEMING, AISD Communications Specialist

Most of the anticipation that is a part of the University Interscholastic League’s biennial Realignment Day is focused on the chaos that occurs in high school football. In Abilene ISD, at least, Thursday’s news out of Austin was about all the sports outside of football and the curveball the UIL threw Abilene High and Cooper.

After months of speculation, mock realignments, and hyperbole about what would happen to the football districts the two local high schools play in, not much changed. The real change, however, is what the UIL did with District 4-5A in every other sport. The district is totally different, with the subtraction of Lubbock ISD and Amarillo ISD schools from the equation and the addition of two new schools from Wichita Falls ISD.

Wichita Falls ISD is permanently closing Wichita Falls High School, Wichita Falls Rider High School, and Wichita Falls Hirschi High School at the end of the 2023-24 school year and merging three schools into two – Wichita Falls Legacy High School and Wichita Falls Memorial High School – on new campuses. The UIL created wholesale change in all sports outside of football with a new five-team district that has Abilene High, Cooper, and Wylie joining the two new Wichita Falls schools. Travel costs and time spent on the road will be significantly decreased with that alignment and will have only five teams battling for four playoff spots in each sport outside of football.

“We didn’t see the five-team all-sport district coming at all,” AISD Executive Director of Athletics James Garfield said. “We had seen and heard some speculation about picking up the Wichita Falls schools and maybe Aledo, Azle, and (White Settlement) Brewer because they were the closest in proximity to us and Wichita Falls. But we were all really surprised by this change.

“The travel will be significantly less, but scheduling will be the biggest challenge,” he said. “We’ll get together as a district as soon as possible and start working on a schedule. We might have to play three games against each other or figure out other solutions to fill those slots. We’ll figure it out, but we’ll have to get creative.”

Cooper volleyball coach Nora Campbell was already working on scheduling for the 2024 season Thursday morning after seeing the new district alignment and knowing she’d lost district matches against Lubbock High, Lubbock Monterey, Lubbock Coronado, and Lubbock Cooper.

“I’m pretty shocked,” she said. “I knew this was possible, but I was still surprised we aren’t in a district with the Lubbock schools. And there are some unknowns with this district, with the Wichita Falls school district closing three schools and its athletic talent into two schools. But, our focus doesn’t change. We know the level of volleyball we need to play to be a 5A playoff team caliber in this state, and that remains our end goal no matter what district we land in.

“Scheduling is at the forefront of my mind right now,” she said. “The scramble to pick up non-conference matches when most teams have already started district can be stressful. So that’s where my work begins.”

Abilene High boys’ basketball coach Justin Reese said while he’s enjoyed competing against the Lubbock schools, he’s looking forward to the addition of the two Wichita Falls schools.

“Realignment is always an exciting and interesting day,” he said. “I wasn’t totally shocked the three schools here in went with Wichita Falls. I was surprised we ended up in a five-team district, though. We’ve enjoyed working with the Lubbock schools and will miss them, but we’re looking forward to the new district with the new Wichita Falls schools. The bottom line is we still have to work hard and get better, no matter what happened (Thursday).”

In football, Abilene High remains in District 2-5A Division I – along with the Lubbock and Amarillo ISD schools it played last year – while Cooper remains in District 2-5A Division II with relatively the same teams it played the past two seasons.

The only change is that Abilene High’s district lost Lubbock Cooper to District 2-5A Division II (Cooper’s district) and replaced the Pirates with Lubbock High as the Westerners moved up from District 2-5A Division II. That makes the football district Abilene High, Lubbock Coronado, Lubbock Monterey, Lubbock High, Amarillo High, Amarillo Tascosa, and Amarillo Caprock.

District 2-5A Division II will be different with the two Wichita Falls schools and Lubbock Cooper joining the league, making the district Abilene Cooper, Lubbock Cooper, Amarillo Palo Duro, Wylie, Plainview, Wichita Falls Legacy, and Wichita Falls Memorial. Lubbock Cooper dropped because the Lubbock Cooper ISD added a high school – Lubbock Cooper Liberty – and it will play in Class 4A Division II with 652 students. That new school caused Lubbock Cooper’s enrollment to drop to 1,893 students, pushing the Pirates down to Class 5A Division II.

For months, rumors abounded that, with El Paso only having four schools at the Class 5A Division I level, either the Amarillo and Lubbock schools – or all of them – would join with the El Paso schools to form one or two Class 5A districts, leaving Abilene High and Cooper without those partners. That would have thrown the two District 2-5A districts into complete chaos. Fortunately, that wasn’t the route the UIL took when creating the football districts in West Texas.

“We were prepared to go east or stay right where we’ve been,” said AHS head football coach Mike Fullen. “We knew neither scenario would affect our non-district schedule because both would have been seven-team districts.”

Abilene High and Cooper have already completed their non-district schedules for 2024, and are now just waiting to set dates, sites, and times for their district schedules.

The Eagles will open against San Angelo Central before taking on Cooper in the annual Crosstown Showdown, followed by Odessa Permian and Midland Legacy. Cooper will open against Azle, followed by Abilene High, San Angelo Central, and Lubbock Coronado.

Realignment Enrollment Figures


District 2-5A Division I

1903-2274 Students

Amarillo Tascosa (2208)

Amarillo High School (2169.5)

Amarillo Caprock (2138)

Lubbock Monterey (2130)

Lubbock Coronado (1944.5)

Abilene High School (2026)

Lubbock High School (1918)


District 2-5A Division II

1315-1902 Students

Amarillo Palo Duro (1900)

Lubbock Cooper (1893)

Wichita Falls Legacy (1868)

Abilene Cooper (1777.5)

Wichita Falls Memorial (1695)

Abilene Wylie (1517)

Plainview (1436)


District 4-5A (all sports outside football)

Abilene High School (2026)

Wichita Falls Legacy (1868)

Abilene Cooper (1777.5)

Wichita Falls Memorial (1695)

Abilene Wylie (1517)

Realignment Notes

  • District 1-5A Division I is a four-team football district comprised of El Paso Americas, El Paso Bel Air, El Paso El Dorado, and El Paso Parkland. That means that each team in that district will go into the next two seasons knowing they’ll make the playoffs with seeding as the only concern. The four teams in that district will take on the four playoff teams out of District 2-5A Division I in the bi-district round.
  • The toughest football district in the state – “The District of Doom” – is District 11-6A in the Metroplex. And that district got tougher Thursday when it lost Mansfield Legacy, Lake Ridge, and Mansfield – teams that finished a combined 4-17 in district play last year – and added Lancaster, Mesquite, and Mesquite Horn to go along with DeSoto, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, and Waxahachie. DeSoto and Duncanville have each won back-to-back state titles, Duncanville at the Class 6A Division I level and DeSoto at the Class 6A Division II level. DeSoto – which beat Duncanville last year and won the district title – has an enrollment of 2,127, which falls in Class 5A Division I. However, the DeSoto ISD has chosen to play “up” in Class 6A, just as it did two years ago. Duncanville’s enrollment is the sixth-largest in the state at 4,710.5 students. Still, DeSoto knocked off the Panthers in the regular season (49-33) and walloped Summer Creek, 74-14, in the state championship game, setting numerous state championship game records and earning acclaim as the best team in Texas in 2023. Lancaster adds some pop to the district as the Tigers reached the Class 5A Division I semifinals last season. Waxahachie reached the playoffs last year, and Cedar Hill is a perennial powerhouse with three state championships on its resume.
  • Aledo – which knocked Abilene High out of the Class 5A Division I state playoffs in last season’s quarterfinals and holds the state record with 12 state championships – remains in Class 5A Division I for at least another two seasons. Aledo’s enrollment of 2,267 students makes it one of the largest Class 5A Division I schools in the state, just under the threshold of 2,674 students. Aledo will be in District 3-5A Division I, along with Azle, Denton, Denton Ryan, Granbury, Keller Fossil Ridge, Birdville, Richland, and White Settlement Brewer.