By Scott Hansen
For the teams in the largest classification in the Lone Star State, the grueling 16-game journey to the state championship game will now be known as the “Road to Reliant”. The University Interscholastic League has agreed to play 2008 Texas 5A state championship games at Houston’s plush Reliant Stadium.
This will be the third consecutive year the UIL has voted to host the title contests at a predetermined site.
For the past two seasons, both the 5A Division I and 5A Division II state title contests were played at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
In 2007, Euless Trinity downed Converse Judson 13-10 to stake claim to its second crown in three seasons by winning the 5A-I title. Katy rolled past Pflugerville 28-7 to win the championship in 5A-II. In 1990, the UIL instituted a two-division system. Schools qualify for the state playoffs in 5A out of one of 32 districts. Four teams advance out of each district and are split into two separate divisions based on enrollment.
The last time the state title games were not held at the same venue was in 2005. The 5A-I state title game, won by Euless Trinity, was played at Round Rock ISD Stadium in Austin. Round Rock’s stadium seats 11,000 fans and was opened in 2003. Southlake Carroll claimed the 5A-II state title close to home at Texas Stadium in Irving.
Reliant Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans, has hosted Super Bowl XXXVII and has a capacity of 71,500. Reliant Stadium will also be the site of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
Weather will not be a problem, rain or shine. Reliant Stadium features a retractable domed roof which takes 10 minutes to open or close.
It is believed that the UIL plans to rotate the championship game between three domed stadiums; Reliant Stadium, the Alamodome, and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington when it opens in 2009.
The games will take place Saturday, Dec. 20. The 5A-II final will kick off at 2 p.m. followed by the 5A-I final at 7 p.m.
In all other classes, the more traditional method of selecting championship sites is still being used. The schools will meet to determine a venue normally mid-distance between the two championship participants. Or, schools can agree to play the game at another site that is deemed neutral.
The “Road to Reliant” starts on Aug. 4, the day two-a-day practices open in Texas.