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University Interscholastic League

University Interscholastic League
Abbreviation UIL
Formation Template:If empty
Type Volunteer; NPO
Legal status Association
Purpose Athletic and educational
Headquarters 1701 Manor Rd.
Austin, TX 78722
Region served
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Official language
Dr. Charles Breithaupt
Affiliations National Federation of State High School Associations
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Remarks (512) 471-5883
Formerly called
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The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is an organization that creates rules for and administers almost all athletic, music, and academic contests for public primary and secondary schools in the American state of Texas. It is the largest organization of its type in the world.[citation needed]

Activities range from American football and cross-examination debate to mathematics and marching band competitions; however, the UIL does not administer Academic Decathlon competitions.

The UIL is under the governance of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. Although the Texas Education Agency governs the activities of schools and school districts in Texas, the UIL does not report to TEA, but is instead a separate entity.


The UIL was originally created by UT in 1910 as two different entities, the Debating League of Texas High Schools (to govern debating contests) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association (to govern athletic contests). The two entities merged in 1913 and adopted the UIL name.

At the time, UIL only governed white schools in Texas. From 1940 to 1970, an era of racial segregation in Texas, the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL), headquartered at Prairie View A&M University, served as a separate parallel organization for African-American public high schools in Texas.

In 1965, the UIL agreed to admit PVIL member schools for competition. Black schools began UIL competitions beginning in the 1967-68 school year. After the 1969-70 school year, the UIL fully absorbed all PVIL member schools, the majority of which would later be merged with their white counterparts.[1]

Beginning with the 2003-2004 academic year, two large all-male private schools, Dallas Jesuit and Houston Strake Jesuit, were granted UIL membership. This came after extensive court battles and negotiations from both the UIL's lawyers and the schools' joint lawyers. Previously, both schools were members of the now-defunct Texas Christian Interscholastic League (TCIL); after that league's demise and their inability to gain admittance into the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) or Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC), they decided to further pursue their decade-long battle of gaining membership into the UIL. They are so far the only private schools to be granted UIL membership, as the new UIL rules established after the Jesuit schools' entry prohibited those schools who were eligible for memberships in other similar associations (such as TAPPS or the SPC) to apply.[citation needed]

The Texas Legislature rewrote titles 1 and 2 of the Texas Education Code and greatly restricted the functions to be performed by the Texas Education Agency and the UIL. The changes made Texas an equal access state. The law now requires the public schools to allow all students that reside within the school's boundary equal access to all activities. The Senate also made amendments that expressly regulate the UIL and invalidated certain UIL rules limiting student eligibility for competitions by providing that UIL rules would only apply to a student enrolled in the public school. The UIL no longer has the authority to determine the eligibility of Charter/Home/Private school students.[citation needed]

All students must abide by the state No-Pass No-Play law. Only students that are enrolled in a public school must abide by UIL eligibility rules, even if the activity is not a UIL event.

Charter/Home/Private school students may now participate in all public school extra-curricular activities. Note: In 2008 two non-public school students won UIL wrestling championships.

On October 10, 2010, the Third District Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the UIL operates as a public organization and not a private organization. The ruling clarified that the UIL is legally considered a state agency and must comply with the prerequisites and duties that all other state agencies have. As a state agent the UIL must treat individuals equally and show the purpose/need as well as a rational basis for eligibility restrictions.[citation needed]


The UIL governs only public schools and 2 private high schools. Activities for most Texas private schools are governed by separate bodies, the largest of which is TAPPS. However, private schools are allowed to join the UIL only if 1) they meet UIL's definition of a high school, 2) they are accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, and 3) they are ineligible for membership in any league similar to UIL (such as TAPPS or the Southwest Preparatory Conference). Furthermore, private schools must compete at one classification higher than their enrollment would otherwise dictate. (Charter schools were not subject to this restriction prior to 2014. Beginning in 2014 charter schools must participate at no lower than the classification of the smallest high school in the district where the charter school resides; for example, a charter school within the Dallas ISD must participate in at least Class AAA, as DISD has three high schools which participate at this level.) UIL schools are permitted to schedule contests with private schools and/or home school groups.

Schools are arranged by classification to ensure that schools compete on a regular basis with other schools in the geographic area of a similar size. The classifications are A (the smallest), AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA (the largest). The corresponding alphanumeric designations (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, and 5A) are used in everyday conversation, but officially UIL only uses the alphabetic designations. The general guideline is that the UIL desires between 220-245 schools in Class AAAAA, at least 200 schools in Classes AA, AAA, and AAAA with the grades 9-12 enrollment ratio for those classes no greater than 2.0 between the largest and smallest school in each class, and Class A consisting of all other schools.

In the 2014 - 2015 school year the UIL will be adding a new classification AAAAAA (6A) UIL Legislative Council Meeting Results, 2012 

In addition, for football participation, a school whose enrollment is at or below 99.5 students may choose to play either six-man football or 11-man Class A football. The school is included in a Class A district for all other events. Class A schools with enrollments over 99.5 are only eligible for 11-man football; however, some schools organize a six-man team and play an "outlaw" schedule (i.e., the school is not eligible for the postseason). Moreover, for some events (such as team tennis or swimming and diving), the UIL organizes all participating schools into Class AAAAA and Class AAAA, with the latter encompassing all schools not meeting the Class AAAAA enrollment requirements.

Within each classification, the UIL separates the schools in regions, and then further separates the regions into districts for various contests. The districts are numbered from 1 (in far west Texas) to 32 (in south Texas). There are always 32 districts in Class AAAAA and Class AAAA, but the smaller classifications may have numbers skipped based on the number of schools in the classification. No more than 10 schools are permitted in a single district unless all schools and the UIL consent otherwise; the preference is for an even number of schools in each district (6, 8, 10) though in some cases travel issues may prevent such.

Previously, schools were permitted to request to be placed in a higher classification than their enrollment would otherwise dictate, usually to play at a higher level of competition. The "play up" rule was later eliminated for competition reasons, but has been retained for geographic reasons (where playing at the current level would create a travel hardship for the school), and where school districts with eight or more high schools could keep all or most of them in the same classification. However, the school must then participate at the higher classification in all UIL events in which it does participate.

Each type of contest has different regions and competitors, as there is no requirement that a school participate in all UIL events – some small rural schools do not participate in football or choose six-man over 11-man, while some magnet schools do not field athletic teams but participate in academic events only.

Unlike the college ranks or other states, the regions and districts are not permanently set, but are redrawn biennially by the UIL behind closed doors in an attempt to keep schools of similar sizes within a certain distance of their geographic area when attending competitions, and to adjust for the changing enrollments of schools (moving schools with increased attendance up in classification and those with decreased attendance down) and new schools opening. The main redrawing of regions and districts takes place on February 1 of even-numbered years (and the final allocation, especially relating to high school football, is the subject of much pre-announcement anticipation and speculation as to which schools move up or down and the final composition of the districts), but as new schools open or smaller schools close or disband programs, interim adjustments can be made.

The changing districts and regions have produced unusual results – for example, the 2008-09 Class AAAAA boys' basketball championship featured champion DeSoto from Region II defeating Cedar Hill from Region I, notwithstanding that the schools are in neighboring districts.

Playoff formats


In AAAAA, AAAA, and (beginning in 2013) AAA the top four teams from each district are eligible for the playoffs. The two eligible teams with the highest student enrollment for its district are seeded in the Division I playoff bracket, and the remaining two teams (with the lower enrollment) are seeded in the Division II playoff bracket. This method is supposed to prevent matchups between large and small schools within a classification, although in practice this is not always the case – for example, in the 2006 playoffs, Southlake Carroll (the Class AAAAA Division I champion) had a lower student enrollment than Cedar Hill (the Class AAAAA Division II champion).

For AA, A, and for six-man football, the UIL divides schools into separate Division I (large) and Division II (small) districts at its bi-annual redistricting session (in these cases, there are a maximum of 16 districts statewide, as opposed to the 32 in the larger classifications); separate playoffs are held for each division with the top two teams from each district eligible.

Other major team sports

In AAAAA and AAAA, the top four teams from each district are eligible. However, the UIL does not use a Division I/Division II alignment as in football; only one champion is crowned in each class. A similar arrangement exists in AAA and AA, and for Class A in all other team sports except basketball, except only the top three teams are eligible.

For Class A basketball, similar to the six-man football setup the UIL divides schools into separate Division I (large) and Division II (small) districts prior to the beginning of the season, and separate playoffs are held for each division with the top two teams from each district eligible. This arrangement exists because, in some small schools, basketball is the only team sport in which the school participates.

For baseball and softball, at all levels except the state tournament, playoff rounds are best 2-of-3 only if both coaches agree; if they do not then the coaches flip a coin to decide the format of the playoff (single game or two out of three series). At the state tournament both the semifinals and finals are single-game format.

Academics and other sports

Advancement in these activities is dependent on the individual event involved.

Musical competition

In musical competitions, schools are aligned into 28 regions (the regions themselves are set not by the UIL, but by the Texas Music Educators Association). Schools of all sizes are grouped into a region.

Advancement within musical competition is not based on direct competition against other schools. Instead, musicians are compared against an established rubric (this is comparable to conformation dog shows where dogs compete against the written standard for their breed, not against other dogs of differing breeds), and all schools or individuals who are judged "Division 1" (the highest level) advance to the next level, except for state competition.

For marching band, schools compete against other schools in the same UIL conference. The 28 regions are grouped into seven areas for Class AAAAA and AAAAAA schools, and five areas for Class A, AA, AAA, and AAAA schools. All schools of all classes compete in region competition annually, as a fall semester activity. However, in even-numbered years schools in Class AA, Class AAAA and Class AAAAAA can advance from region to area to state, and in odd-numbered years schools from Class A, AAA, and AAAAA can advance from region to area to state. The state winner is the school with the lowest ordinal score when the rankings from each judge are tabulated. For example, School A receives a first place score from three judges, a second place score from the fourth judge, and a fourth place score from the fifth judge. The ordinal score for School A is 9 (1+1+1+2+4). School B receives two first place scores and three second place scores. The ordinal score for School B is 8 (1+1+2+2+2). School B would be the champion despite receiving fewer first place scores because School B's ordinal score is lower than School A's. Thus, overall placement in the caption area for each judge is more important than the raw score awarded by the judge.

In all other musical competitions (held in the spring semester), conference alignments are disregarded except for the rules regarding sightreading. Advancement in solo and small ensemble competition is from region to state, and at state the top two soloists and top ensemble are awarded medals. Individual performers may be given Outstanding Performer awards. However, advancement is limited not only to Division 1 winners, but the winners must have performed "Class 1" (difficult level) performances at region, and the performance must have been from a selection on the UIL's "Prescribed Music List" and also performed from memory (except for certain instrumental pieces which are designated as exempt from such on the List). In sightreading, schools in different conferences read different pieces, and second groups (officially called "non-varsity" groups) read different pieces from other conferences than the varsity group.

Sightreading and medium ensembles compete at region level only. Music theory is held at state only and is open to any and all students in grades 9-12 having the permission of the school principal and school music director; the student is not required to have advanced from region in another musical contest (or even participated for that matter). Wind ensembles can advance from region to state; however, the state event is not a competition but an educational event.



Historically, football championship games have been held at neutral sites mutually agreed upon by both teams, but in 2006, 2007 and 2009, both Class 5A championship games were played at the Alamodome in San Antonio. In 2010, the UIL designated sites for all championship games: the 5A, 4A, and 3A championships were held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, while the 2A and 1A championships were held at Newsom Stadium in Mansfield, with the six-man championships were held at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. In 2011, Class 5A through Class 1A played their state championships at AT&T Stadium, while the six-man games were played at Abilene. In 2013, the six-man games moved to AT&T Stadium as well.

The state semifinal and championship games for all five classes in boys and girls basketball are held at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. The state track and field meet and swimming championships are also held on the UT Austin campus, the former at Mike A. Myers Stadium and the latter at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.

The soccer semifinals and finals for 4A and 5A are held at Birkelbach Field in the Austin suburb of Georgetown, and the state baseball tournament is held at Dell Diamond in another Austin suburb, Round Rock. The state softball tournament is held at Red and Charline McCombs Field on the UT Austin campus. The state cross country meet is held at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. The state wrestling tournament is held at the DELCO Center in Austin. The Class 5A state golf tournament is held at Jimmy Clay Golf Course, a municipal course in Austin.

From 2000-2011 the girls' volleyball tournament was held at in Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. Since 2012, the tournament has been held at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.


Though UIL is best known as the governing body for public school athletic competition, it also hosts numerous academic competitions as well. Between athletics, music, and academics, UIL estimates that half of all public high school graduates have competed in at least one UIL-sanctioned event during their high school tenure.

The state level academic competitions are held on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, the semifinals and finals of cross-examination debate will be held at the Texas State Capitol.

For fine arts and journalism contests, the UIL has not adopted an "amateur rule.” Thus, students who have acted or performed professionally or who have written for a local newspaper may still compete in UIL-sanctioned contests provided they are otherwise eligible.

Scholarship fund

Any student who competes at a state academic meet (at any high school grade) is also eligible to apply for a scholarship from the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation, an affiliate of UIL. The student must attend college in Texas full-time and meet certain grade requirements.


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Further reading

  • Bedichek, Roy (1956). Educational Competition: The Story of the University Interscholastic League. Austin: University of Texas Press. 
  • Breazeale, George (1993). Tops in Texas: Records and Notes on UIL State Football Champions, 1920-1992. Austin: Martin Communications. 

External links