AUSTIN (AP) — Texas’ small schools, and their ability to win state championships, likely would be most affected by allowing private schools to join the University Interscholastic League, UIL officials said Monday.

High schools from small towns would be thrust into competition with small schools from larger cities that can draw athletes from a much broader area, UIL athletic director Charles Breithaupt said at the annual Southwest Associated Press Sports Editors meeting.

“Our schools would say that’s the thing they’re afraid of,” Breithaupt said. “That is what is causing the fear of private schools.”

A bill to allow private schools to enter the UIL at Class 2A and above is pending in the Legislature. It has already passed the Senate, and a similar version is waiting for a vote in the House with two weeks left the session.

Texas is one of three states with separate athletic championships for public and private schools. The UIL, the governing body for public school sports, has about 1,300 members. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, has about 250 members.

Two large private schools, Dallas Jesuit and Strake Jesuit in Houston, were allowed into the UIL after they became too big for TAPPS.

Breithaupt used Florida as an example of where private schools are very successful in the postseason. In 2006, private schools played in five of Florida’s eight football championship games, winning one. In 2005, three private schools won state titles and another lost in the final.

Texas public school districts have long sought to keep private schools out of the UIL over concerns they may be able to recruit athletes. The bill in the House allows the UIL to draft rules to discourage private schools from recruiting students for sports.

Cornerstone Christian, a San Antonio private school connected with the politically powerful Cornerstone megachurch, has been the driving force behind the attempt to get private schools in the UIL. Cornerstone Christian has run into trouble with TAPPS in recent years over questions about its elite basketball team that included mostly out of state and foreign players.

TAPPS did not renew Cornerstone’s membership last fall, although Cornerstone officials have insisted it was not because they broke any rules. School officials say allowing private schools in UIL is an issue of fairness.