TUSD proposes dedicated UHS campus & combining Catalina with Rincon

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

By a vote of 3-2, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) governing board passed a motion Tuesday night to begin the process of studying a dedicated site for University High School (UHS). The political and academic implications of such a move are lengthy and deserve their own revue but I will take a look at the athletic implications of such a move.

University High School was established in 1976 in an attempt to offer curriculum support to academically gifted high school students. UHS was housed at Tucson High until the program was shifted to its current location at Rincon High School (1985), creating what is commonly known as Rincon/University or, more simply, Rincon/UHS or even just “Rincon.”

The combined enrollment figures for Rincon/UHS are set at 2,215 for athletic purposes. All enrollment figures used here will be the marks used by the AIA for conference classifications, except for UHS which is reported as 1,134 by TUSD. Using 1,134, the enrollment for Rincon as a separate school would be 1,081.

The proposal put forward in the initial phase of discussion presented on Tuesday night includes moving UHS to Catalina High School and moving the students at Catalina to Rincon. The enrollment figures the AIA uses for Catalina is 783 students, that means the “new” Rincon student enrollment would be set at 1,917 or about 298 less students on the Rincon campus.

It is reported that the Rincon campus is currently at 113% capacity but those figures are not used in determining athletic conference placements.

The proposal put forward to the governing board set the 2018-2019 school year as the start date, which, of course, is next year.

TUSD Graphic


Using football as the example, Tucson (3,208 students), Rincon (2,215) and Sunnyside (2,207) are the only 6A Conference schools in Southern Arizona. The three schools share the 6A Southern Region with Yuma area high schools, Cibola and Kofa.

Under the proposal, the new Rincon enrollment of 1,917 would shift the school to the 5A Conference while the UHS campus would be in the 4A Conference.

Here are samples of current Southern Arizona schools with enrollment numbers and conference placements:

6A Conference
Tucson 3,208
Rincon/UHS 2,215
Sunnyside 2,207

5A Conference
Buena 2,180
(RINCON 1,917)
Sahuaro 1,752

4A Conference
Catalina Foothills 1,697
(UHS 1,134)
Walden Grove 1,099
Salpointe 1,093

3A Conference
Sabino 961

The loss of Rincon from the 6A Conference would have a ripple effect on future conference placements for all schools. Only two schools (Tucson and Sunnyside) in a conference would be problematic. I would expect schools such as Buena and Desert View (2,131) would be moved up to the 6A Conference or Tucson and Sunnyside would be shifted down to the 5A Conference.

Having UHS play in the 4A Conference should bring up difficult decisions like participation in football. Will UHS drop participation in team sports like football, baseball or softball? It will depend on the focus and direction set forth by the community.

The “new” Rincon, however, should be able to compete in the 5A Conference with much more success than it has experienced in the 6A Conference.

It is also important to note the award-winning marching band currently at Rincon. What will become of it?

NOTE: The TUSD Department of Interscholastics sent a message that athletics has yet to be discussed under the proposal.


The proposed study by TUSD is expected to cover teacher and administrative transfers but coaching and support staff should also be part of the equation. Is it possible to just “flip” the coaching responsibilities? Doubtful.

Expect more than a few complications to arise in this area.


Although Rincon is commonly known as the “Rangers,” UHS also has a mascot (Penguins). Will the name “Catalina” and the “Trojan” mascot be completely wiped off the board?

It is doubtful the “new” Rincon campus would be called Rincon/Catalina.

And the trophies and awards. Both campuses proudly display championship banners. It may seem like a minor issue but which school gets to claim what and where will everything be displayed?


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com


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