UIL tables home field advantage expansion

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Fans come from far and wide to cheer on their favorite teams each Friday night in the fall. Come playoff time, long road trips are a small price to pay for making the postseason. New legislation being considered by the UIL seeks to change that.

For the home team at least.

A format used by 6A teams and being integrated into the 5A level this season, higher-seeded opponents will have home field advantage in the bi-district round of the playoffs. The UIL considered expanding that format to Class 4A and below this year, but decided to table the proposal.

The idea of home field advantage has been met with mixed reviews at smaller schools.

"I love the idea of the district champion being rewarded with a home playoff game," said Madisonville Head Football Coach Rusty Nail. "Then again, I'm at a school with excellent facilities."

Nail says he understands why many small-school coaches are against the idea.

"I come from a small school background from my years at Mart, and there were a lot of places that we would go where the facilities were not up to par," Nail said. "I would hate to know that we made the playoffs and had to go play at a venue where maybe even the field was unsafe."

With larger crowds, not to mention bands and spirit teams, playoff games can create a seating and facility nightmare for small schools. That's not even taking into consideration travel, with many playoff opponents separated by hundreds of miles.

"That's not fair to anybody," said Burton Head Football Coach Jason Hodde.

Hodde's Panthers played Center Point in the Bi-District round last season. Under a home field advantage format, the Pirates would have had to make a 348 mile round trip.

"That's not fair to the parents or the kids. When you've got to hike four hours for a playoff game, whether it be a Thursday night, Friday night or even a Saturday, you're looking into travel time and more money from that standpoint," Hodde said.

And while there may be some savings for districts, someone eventually has to foot the bill.

"It may actually be more expensive for the team that has to travel because you no longer have a neutral site and with that out of play, the team that has to travel may incur the greatest cost," Nail said.