The Wyoming high school football makeup will see a huge shift in 2020, as reclassification introduces a nine-man classification and sends 12 schools into different classifications.

But what if reclassification had hit in 2019 instead of 2020? What if next year’s conferences were in place this year? How different would the 2019 season have turned out?

Here’s a quick hypothetical look at how 2019 may have developed if we were using the 2020 conference alignments:

Class 4A: No differences. Class 4A is untouched by reclassification. Sheridan still wins it all.

Class 3A: The only difference in 3A is Buffalo taking Torrington’s spot. And the Bison had a pretty salty team last year, finishing second in 2A. So where would Buffalo have finished in a parity-filled 3A East? Good question… but my guess is just above the three-way tie for second, just behind Lander. Maybe a final order of Lander, Buffalo, (tied teams Riverton, Douglas, Worland,) Rawlins. But Star Valley still wins it all.

Class 2A: Ready for this simulation to get weird? With Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Tongue River and Cokeville in (and Buffalo, Moorcroft and Greybull out), the dynamics in 2A take on a much different look. Based on interclass games and score comparisons, this is the best I could come up with in terms of what the conference standings might have looked like in 2019:

2A East: Big Horn, Burns, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Wheatland, Tongue River, Glenrock, Newcastle.

2A West: Mountain View, Thermopolis, Cokeville, Lyman, Big Piney, Lovell, Pinedale, Kemmerer.

That means the first-round playoff matchups would have looked like this: (4W) Lyman at (1E) Big Horn; (3W) Cokeville at (2E) Burns; (3E) Upton-Sundance at (2W) Thermopolis; and (4E) Torrington at (1W) Mountain View. Those 2-3 matchups are doozies, and I’d pay good money to watch them. But ultimately, I think Big Horn and Mountain View end up in the title game, and I think Mountain View still takes it all.

Class 1A nine-man: You thought 2A was weird? Let’s try 1A nine-man, a classification that barely resembles the 1A 11-man class from 2019. It’s hard to compare across classifications here, but this is what I think the standings might have ended up looking like in 2019 with the teams in the conferences for 2020:

1A-9 East: Southeast, Wright, Lusk, Lingle, Moorcroft, Saratoga, Pine Bluffs.

1A-9 West: Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Greybull, Riverside, Wind River, St. Stephens, Wyoming Indian.

That leads to some interesting playoff pairings: Riverside at Southeast; Greybull at Wright; Lusk at Rocky Mountain; Lingle at Shoshoni. And from there, honestly, anything could happen. The East was the stronger conference, so it would have been entirely likely to see something like a Southeast-Wright championship game.

Class 1A six-man: A return to normalcy comes with six-man, as the two state title game opponents, Snake River and Hanna, remain in the classification. But with Lingle and St. Stephens gone, and Encampment in, a few teams would have finished higher in the standings than they did, and some of the first-round playoff pairings would have been a bit different.

1A-6 East: Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Guernsey, Midwest, NSI.

1A-6 West: Snake River, Burlington, Farson, Encampment, Meeteetse, Dubois, Ten Sleep (Ten Sleep didn’t field a team in 2019).

First-round pairings would have had Guernsey at Snake River, Kaycee at Burlington, Farson at Hulett and Encampment at Hanna. Ultimately, the Rattlers and Miners would have squared off again in Laramie, with Snake River winning it.

As teams, players and communities adjust to the new structure of Wyoming high school football in 2020, it’s interesting to think about what those changes will mean long-term. This little peek behind the curtain of this new structure could reveal some important distinctions about how 2020 might be different beyond just different players, coaches and schedules.

Hopefully, the season can happen.

–patrick

Class 3A could see a shift in its football conference alignments for 2020 and 2021, with Powell and Cody switching places with Rawlins and Lander.

Such a move would lower overall travel but would put Fremont County rivals Riverton and Lander in separate conferences.

The proposed conference alignment would have Rawlins and Lander join Jackson, Star Valley, Evanston and Green River in a modified West Conference, while Powell and Cody would join Worland, Buffalo, Riverton and Douglas in a modified East Conference.

The proposal was confirmed in separate emails from four current Class 3A coaches to wyoming-football.com. However, their understandings of the proposal ranged from “nothing super concrete” to “a done deal.”

One coach said the new proposal would help eliminate overnight travel for conference games for all teams. The necessity to travel through Yellowstone Park for conference games would also be reduced.

The potential move is precipitated in part by reclassification, which brings Buffalo’s return to 3A and Torrington’s move to Class 2A for both 2020 and 2021.

Below is a table of the mileage between 3A high schools, showing only the distances between schools that could be in the same conference in 2020. One-way distances here are calculated “through the park,” where teams take shorter trips going through Yellowstone when possible.

JacEvaSVGRCodPowLanRawRivDouWorBuf
Jacx19067190179205162283
Eva190x12493367389207212
SV67124x171245271228290
GR19093171x293315133127
Cod179367245293x2616526114026689177
Pow20538927131526x18828316228888157
Lan162207228133165188x12629198115205
Raw283212290127261283126x125170211227
Riv14016229125x17290180
Dou266288198170172x215163
Wor898811521190215x91
Buf17715720522718016391x

Total conference travel distances for respective teams would change with new conferences, with equal teams seeing more and less travel but with overall travel reduced.

With the old alignment, with Buffalo replacing Torrington in the East Conference and no other changes, teams would have averaged a total of 907 miles to their conference destinations; with the new alignment, teams would average a total of 818 miles to their conference foes, a reduction about 91 miles per school.

Schools with more travel would include:
Jackson: Old alignment, 831 miles; new alignment, 892 miles.
Star Valley: Old alignment, 878 miles; new alignment, 880 miles.
Rawlins: Old alignment, 859 miles; new alignment, 1,038 miles.
Riverton: Old alignment, 596 miles; new alignment, 744 miles.
Douglas: Old alignment, 918 miles; new alignment, 1,104 miles.
Lander: Old alignment, 673 miles; new alignment, 856 mies.

Schools with less travel would include:
Evanston: Old alignment, 1,163 miles; new alignment, 826 miles.
Green River: Old alignment, 1,062 miles; new alignment, 714 miles.
Cody: Old alignment, 1,110 miles; new alignment, 698 miles.
Powell: Old alignment, 1,206 miles; new alignment, 721 miles.
Worland: Old alignment, 722 miles; new alignment, 573 miles.
Buffalo: Old alignment, 866 miles; new alignment, 768 miles.

The WHSAA will release the conference portion of the 2020 football schedule at the statewide scheduling meeting Nov. 19-20 in Casper.

–patrick

Some big changes were coming to the Wyoming football landscape in 2020, with or without shifts due to reclassification.

But reclassification in and of itself will bring some changes, as well.

With Class 1A 11-man football changing to nine-man next fall, several schools have petitioned to opt up to Class 2A to keep the 11-man version of the sport going at their school. Between petitions and enrollment changes, as many as 12 schools could play football in a different classification next fall.

With the reclassification numbers released to schools by the Wyoming High School Activities Association during the organization’s district meetings this month, some schools will have easier decisions than others.

Before we dive into the breakdowns for each sport, let’s take a look at the “Average Daily Membership” numbers — projected grade 9-12 enrollment numbers — that the WHSAA will use for enrollment-based classification:

1. Kelly Walsh, 1,996.72
2. Natrona, 1,943.63
3. Rock Springs, 1,642.46
4. Cheyenne East, 1,513.53
5. Cheyenne South, 1,492.05
6. Cheyenne Central, 1,410.04
7. Campbell County, 1,289.55
8. Thunder Basin, 1,238.04
9. Laramie, 1,159.28
10. Sheridan, 1,093.16
11. Jackson, 869.91
12. Evanston, 846.25
13. Star Valley, 816.05
14. Green River, 764.81
15. Riverton, 748.15
16. Cody, 619.23
17. Powell, 586.88
18. Lander, 559.10
19. Douglas, 543.84
20. Rawlins, 473.09
21. Worland, 442.94
22. Buffalo, 356.91
23. Torrington, 352.13
24. Pinedale, 341.15
25. Wheatland, 282.30
26. Mountain View, 275.54
27. Newcastle, 262.35
28. Lyman, 237.37
29. Burns, 229.00
30. Lovell, 226.03
31. Thermopolis, 213.29
32. Kemmerer, 188.70
33. Moorcroft, 188.08
34. Glenrock, 182.35
35. Tongue River, 174.00
36. Big Piney, 160.72
37. Greybull, 147.59
38. Wyoming Indian, 146.95
39. Rocky Mountain, 129.86
40. Big Horn, 127.86
41. Wind River, 127.01
42. Wright, 126.78
43. Sundance, 123.11
44. Shoshoni, 122.63
45. Pine Bluffs, 112.46
46. Lusk, 90.67
47. Riverside, 87.27
48. St. Stephens, 82.74
49. Saratoga, 82.62
50. Lingle, 78.54
51. Cokeville, 77.41
52. Southeast, 76.77
53. Burlington, 76.41
54. Guernsey-Sunrise, 69.39
55. Upton, 66.68
56. Normative Services, 65.00
57. Hanna, 62.87
58. Midwest, 61.00
59. Farson, 57.90
60. Hulett, 56.57
61. Kaycee, 52.82
62. Snake River, 51.40
63. Fort Washakie, 49.93
64. Encampment, 43.44
65. Dubois, 42.79
66. Arapaho Charter, 40.01
67. Meeteetse, 34.50
68. Arvada-Clearmont, 31.06
69. Ten Sleep, 31.04
70. Rock River, 27.67
71. Glendo, 16.42
72. Chugwater, 7.65

Here’s a quick look at how reclassification will likely affect each sport (with football’s changes noted at the end of this post):

BASKETBALL, VOLLEYBALL, TRACK (16-16-16-rest): The only likely change in 3A comes in the Southwest. Kemmerer and Big Piney will switch places, with Kemmerer moving up to Class 3A and Big Piney down to Class 2A.

The only other anticipated change comes with St. Stephens and Southeast, as St. Stephens jumps to 2A and Southeast moves down to 1A.

In 2A, it’s probable (and at this point, my conjecture) that Wright will move to the SE District to take Southeast’s place, Tongue River will move to the NE District to take Wright’s place, and St. Stephens will slide into the NW to fill Tongue River’s spot.

No changes are anticipated for 4A in these sports.

CROSS COUNTRY, GOLF, SWIMMING, WRESTLING (12-16-rest): These three-class (cross country, golf, wrestling) and two-class (swimming) sports will likely see only one change. Jackson and Green River will swap spots in Class 4A, with Jackson moving up and Green River moving down.

SOCCER (14-rest): Soccer will see no classification changes prompted by enrollment.

OTHER SPORTS: Wyoming’s remaining sports have only one classification, which makes this discussion moot to them.

Laird said no other schools or programs in any sports except for football have put forth opt-up or opt-down requests to the WHSAA. However, football has prompted plenty of such requests. … And that brings us to…

FOOTBALL (10-12-14-14-rest): Purely by enrollment differences, several schools will change classifications for 2020.

  • Buffalo and Torrington will flip-flop their spots, with Buffalo moving back to 3A and Torrington to 2A.
  • Tongue River and Greybull will also trade, with Tongue River moving to 2A and Greybull to 1A.
  • Lingle and St. Stephens will be classified as nine-man programs by enrollment and move up.
  • Riverside and Saratoga, currently opting down to play six-man schedules, are scheduled to move to the nine-man division.
  • Southeast will be classified as a six-man school by enrollment (but has requested to opt up).

Then it gets messy, as teams opt up from nine-man (or six-man) classifications to remain 11-man programs.

Five schools — Big Horn, Cokeville, Upton-Sundance, Southeast and Moorcroft — have submitted opt-up or opt-down requests to the WHSAA, WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said via email to wyoming-football.com on Tuesday.

With nine-man’s start at the 1A level, two programs — Big Horn and Cokeville — have asked the WHSAA to opt up from nine-man to 2A, with Upton-Sundance also joining 2A per its co-op. Additionally, Southeast has requested to opt up from six-man to nine-man.

Meanwhile, Moorcroft has asked to opt down from Class 2A to Class 1A nine-man. Laird said officials from Moorcroft are scheduled to address the WHSAA board next week to ask for playoff eligibility.

If all opt-up and opt-down requests are approved — which won’t be official until passed twice by the WHSAA board of directors in meetings in both September and November — a total of 12 schools could play in different classifications in 2020, not including the schools staying in 1A and making the change from 11-man to nine-man.

No changes are slated for Class 4A football.

WHSAA Associate Commissioner Trevor Wilson provided a tentative conference alignment via email on Tuesday. However, all conference alignments must be approved by the schools and won’t be finalized until the WHSAA’s second board meeting of the school year in November.

TENTATIVE conference alignments include:

4A: No changes.

3A: Buffalo replaces Torrington in the East; no other changes.

2A East: Big Horn, Burns, Glenrock, Newcastle, Tongue River, Torrington, Upton-Sundance, Wheatland.

2A West: Big Piney, Cokeville, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Mountain View, Pinedale, Thermopolis.

1A nine-man East: Lingle, Lusk, Moorcroft, Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Southeast, Wright.

1A nine-man West: Greybull, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens, Shoshoni, Wind River, Wyoming Indian.

1A six-man East: Guernsey, Kaycee, Hulett, Hanna, NSI, Midwest.

1A six-man West: Burlington, Encampment, Dubois, Farson, Meeteetse, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

–patrick

The Wyoming High School Activities Association’s board of directors approved the addition of nine-man football to the state for the 2020 season, changing the Class 1A 11-man division to a nine-man division.

The board voted unanimously to approve the change on second reading Tuesday, the Casper Star-Tribune’s Brady Oltmans reported on Twitter.

9-man football proposal carries unanimously. There will be 9-man football starting in 2020 in Wyoming.— Brady Oltmans ? (@BradyOltmans) April 23, 2019

The change comes in time for schedules to be set for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Wyoming hasn’t had organized nine-man football since 1994.

In January, WHSAA Associate Director Trevor Wilson said several programs would opt to Class 2A to keep their 11-man teams, and a handful of six-man programs have indicated a desire to up to nine-man. In all, Class 2A would have 17 teams while Class 1A nine-man and Class 1A six-man would have 13 teams apiece.

A November WHSAA survey indicated that programs’ preliminary classification choices — which may change prior to the 2020 season — included the following:

  • Class 2A: Big Horn*, Big Piney, Buffalo, Burns, Cokeville*, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pine Bluffs*, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Upton-Sundance*, Wheatland.
  • Class 1A nine-man: Lingle*, Lusk, Moorcroft^, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens*, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
  • Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Encampment, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Meeteetse, Midwest, NSI, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

*-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt up from current classification; ^-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt down from current classification. All opt-ups and opt-downs are subject to WHSAA board approval.

Final classification decisions and conferences won’t be set until after the WHSAA’s reclassification work is completed in the fall. Teams may move up or down classifications based on changes in enrollment between now and then.

The 2019 season will be unchanged by Tuesday’s vote.

–patrick

When the WHSAA Board of Directors meets for the first of its four quarterly meetings on Sept. 26-27 in Casper, one of the big topics will be — get this — reclassification.

The WHSAA reclassifies schools every two years. Two big changes are part of this year’s reclassification cycle — the changes the WHSAA approved last spring, and Thunder Basin now officially being a part of reclassification rather than an add-on.

In case you forgot, here’s how the structures are changing:

  • Basketball, volleyball and track are changing from a 12-16-20 format to a 16-16-16 format. Four more teams in 4A, four fewer teams in 2A. That’ll mean a lot of moving around for those sports.
  • Soccer is changing from a 12-team 4A to a 14-team 4A, with everyone else in 3A.
  • Wrestling, cross country, golf and swimming don’t have any structure changes; neither do one-class sports indoor track, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and tennis. Wrestling, cross country, golf and swimming, though, will see some schools change classes to accommodate Thunder Basin.

Based on the “average daily membership” enrollments provided by the WHSAA, here are the changes I anticipate for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years:

For football: No changes. (The only possible change prompted strictly by enrollment comes at the 3A/2A level. Buffalo opted up to 3A this season and will have the option to do so again for the next two years as they’ll still be classified in 2A by enrollment. Riverside will continue to be ineligible for the six-man playoffs at its current enrollment level.)

For basketball, volleyball and track: Star Valley, Riverton and Cody from 3A to 4A; Burns, Lovell and Big Piney from 2A to 3A; Upton from 2A to 1A.

For soccer: Star Valley from 3A to 4A.

For wrestling, cross country and golf: Jackson from 4A to 3A; Thermopolis from 3A to 2A.

For swimming: Jackson from 4A to 3A.

Conferences and regions for each sport have yet to be established. Conferences are established by participating schools, but the WHSAA sets regions for regional tournament qualifying.

Because this is gonna get SUPER confusing, here’s a cheat sheet to estimate which schools will be classified where for each sport. Check it out. It’s handy.

+++

The ADM numbers the WHSAA provided to the schools, rounded to the nearest whole number, are as follows:

1. Kelly Walsh, 1,958
2. Natrona, 1,902
3. Rock Springs, 1,597
4. Cheyenne East, 1,522
5. Cheyenne South, 1,409
6. Cheyenne Central, 1,346
7. Thunder Basin, 1,234
8. Gillette, 1,175
9. Laramie, 1,142
10. Sheridan, 998
11. Evanston, 828
12. Green River, 817
13. Jackson, 813
14. Star Valley, 783
15. Riverton, 711
16. Cody, 615
17. Powell, 561
18. Lander, 546
19. Douglas, 505
20. Rawlins, 474
21. Worland, 428
22. Torrington, 358
23. Buffalo, 339
24. Pinedale, 321
25. Wheatland, 280
26. Mountain View, 263
27. Newcastle, 257
28. Lyman, 231
29. Burns, 224
30. Thermopolis, 216
31. Lovell, 212
32. Big Piney, 188
33. Glenrock, 184
34. Kemmerer, 177
35. Moorcroft, 170
36. Greybull, 154
37. Tongue River, 151
38. Big Horn, 140
39. Wyoming Indian, 136
40. Rocky Mountain, 132
41. Wright, 127
42. Wind River, 125
43. Sundance, 120
44. Shoshoni, 114
45. Pine Bluffs, 111
46. Southeast, 94
47. Riverside, 93
48. Lusk, 92
49. Saratoga, 84
50. Cokeville, 80
51. Lingle, 73
52. Upton, 70
53. Burlington, 69
54. Guernsey-Sunrise, 67
55. Normative Services, 65
56. St. Stephens, 65
57. Farson, 62
58. Hanna, 62
59. Kaycee, 54
60. Hulett, 51
61. Fort Washakie, 49
62. Encampment, 47
63. Snake River, 46
64. Dubois, 43
65. Meeteetse, 43
66. Midwest, 39
67. Arvada-Clearmont, 35
68. Arapaho Charter, 35
69. Ten Sleep, 35
70. Rock River, 28
71. Glendo, 20
72. Chugwater, 12

–patrick

Big Horn moves from Class 2A to Class 1A 11-man in 2017 — and that should make everyone in Class 1A 11-man more than a little scared.

The Rams were state champs at the 2A level last season despite being the smallest school in the classification. Next year, with Thunder Basin coming into 4A and causing a cascade of class changes, the Rams will move into 1A 11-man.

If Big Horn wins a title in 2017 after changing classifications, they’ll be just the seventh team — and the second program — to do so. The Rams would join Cokeville and Southeast as the only programs to have won back-to-back state titles despite switching classifications from one year to the next.

In all, 11 teams in state history have moved classifications after winning a state title; Big Horn will make the 12th. Yet only the Panthers and Cyclones won a state title the next year.

Cokeville has pulled off the feat three times, winning the 1988 1A title and the 1989 2A title; the 1989 2A title and the 1990 1A 11-man title; and the 1994 1A 11-man title and the 1995 1A Division II title. Two of those came near the 1989 season, when Cokeville opted up to 2A after 1A became a nine-man-only division for that season, prior to the state’s move from four to five classifications in 1990.

Southeast, meanwhile, has done this three times, too: The Cyclones won the 2000 1A Division II title and the 2001 2A title, the 2006 2A and the 2007 1A title, and the 2008 1A and the 2009 1A 11-man title.

In those six cases, three championships came when moving up a class and three titles came when moving down, like Big Horn will do next year.

In addition to the Cokeville and Southeast changes noted, six other teams tried, and failed, to repeat as state champion despite changing classifications after a title-winning season. Five of those six teams moved up in classification after winning a title. Teams that failed to repeat after changing include Burlington in 1995 (1A nine-man to 1A Division II); Cowley in 1956 (B six-man to B 11-man); Green River in 1977 (A to AA); Lingle in 1991 (1A nine-man to 1A 11-man); Tongue River in 1957 (B six-man to B eight-man); and Worland in 1960 (A to AA).

(Note: Changes in name classification alone are not considered here; for example, Big Piney won the 2000 2A title and the 2001 3A title, but that was a case of a classification renaming than a classification change. Additionally, champions from shift years 1982 and 1989, where the state went from three to four and four to five classifications, respectively, are not noted here unless the team actually moved in classification in more than just name, as Cokeville did in 1989 to 1990.)

–patrick

(Post updated 10:14 a.m. Feb. 8, 2017, to note Southeast’s 2006-07 repeat at different classifications.)

The Wyoming High School Activities Association this week officially juggled classifications for four football programs for the 2017 football season to accommodate a new high school set to open in Gillette next year.

Thunder Basin High School in Gillette will waste no time, starting its varsity football program in Class 4A in 2017. Their entry will force one school to shift its classification for the 2017 season: Evanston will go from 4A to 3A, Buffalo will go from 3A to 2A and Big Horn will go from 2A to 1A 11-man. Also, Lingle, currently in 1A six-man but ineligible for the playoffs, will formally move from 1A 11-man to 1A six-man and become eligible for the six-man playoffs in 2017.

Buffalo will remain in 3A after opting up despite the program’s reclassification.

Wyopreps.com reported the changes in a series of tweets.

Buffalo officials have previously said the Bison would opt up to Class 3A for 2017. Buffalo is the only one of the four schools affected by the changing classifications to note its desire to opt up. Coaches and administrators from Evanston, Big Horn and Lingle indicated to wyoming-football.com Tuesday they would accept the classification level set by the WHSAA.

The proposal had been addressed first at the WHSAA’s board of directors meeting in February and was formally approved at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Casper.

With Buffalo’s successful appeal to Class 3A, three classifications — 3A, 2A and 1A 11-man — will have 13 programs apiece.

Normally, by structure, the 10 largest schools in the state are classified as 4A schools; the next 12 are classified in 3A; the next 14 are in 2A; the next 14 are in 1A 11-man; and the remaining schools are in 1A six-man.

Conferences will be set prior to the release of the 2017 schedule in early November. Schools in each classification for the 2017 season will be:

Class 4A: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Gillette, Kelly Walsh, Laramie, Natrona, Rock Springs, Sheridan, Thunder Basin.
Class 3A: Cody, Douglas, Evanston, Green River, Jackson, Lander, Powell, Rawlins, Riverton, Torrington, Star Valley, Worland, Buffalo.
Class 2A: Big Piney, Burns, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Moorcroft, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Wheatland.
Class 1A 11-man: Big Horn, Cokeville, Lusk, Pine Bluffs, Rocky Mountain, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Upton-Sundance, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Lingle, Meeteetse, Midwest, Normative Services, Riverside, Rock River, St. Stephens, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

–patrick

Get caught up. Read part 1 and part 2.

The competitive struggles for the schools at the bottom of Class 3A aren’t revelations. In fact, they were the crux of a five-classification proposal made in 2012 by the Wyoming Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association — a proposal so tempting that the WHSAA delayed reclassification for a year to discuss it before ultimately rejecting it.

The problem in the WIAAA proposal was the difficulties inherent in five classifications, such as increased travel and problems with scheduling state tournaments, were just too much for the WHSAA to overlook.

The WIAAA was onto something, though. Its proposal tried to address the issues with competitiveness and with the shrinking schools in Class 3A. Just one look at what the WIAAA’s proposal would have done to 3A (shrink it from 16 to nine schools) and what it would have done to 1A (add one school) makes that clear.

The issue is 3A. Obviously.

But Wyoming doesn’t need, and can’t accommodate, five classifications for all of its sports. The WHSAA was right to reject the WIAAA proposal. With only 71 high schools, and only 67 that consistently offer the traditional gamut of volleyball, basketball and track, this state does not have enough schools and has too much distance between them to justify five classes for all its sports. We’ve seen what five classes and scheduling for competitive equity did to football — games got worse as travel distances increased.

The time for change is near, though. The next reclassification cycle, which will classify schools for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, will give the WHSAA a unique opportunity. Thunder Basin High School is scheduled to open in Gillette in the fall of 2017. It will likely be a fully fledged 4A school by the fall of 2018. By default, TBHS’s entry into the Wyoming high school sports scene will force changes beyond Gillette; at minimum, the smallest 4A school (now Jackson) would go to 3A, the smallest 3A (now Lyman) would go to 2A, the smallest 2A (now Upton) would go to 1A.

I think a tweak to the existing classification system — one that would be timely given the changes TBHS’s classification will spur — might prove helpful.

+++

In the fall of 2018, the WHSAA should move 3A’s four smallest schools to Class 2A for all sports except football. That small change would help redraw Wyoming’s classification boundaries at 12-12-24-rest, as Class 2A would expand from 20 to 24 schools. Class 1A would go from 21 to 22 schools (24, if you count Arapahoe Charter and Fort Washakie Charter) to accommodate the bump from Thunder Basin.

Such a move could also brings up the opportunity for congruence between Wyoming’s football and basketball classifications, something that hasn’t happened since 1990 when the state moved to five classifications for football. With existing programs, 11-man football could be split into four equal divisions of 12 schools apiece based on the cutoffs for all other sports. (Class 4A football would go from 10 to 12 schools and 2A and 1A 11-man from 14 to 12.)

Using enrollment figures used for the 2016-18 reclassification cycle, here’s how the classifications (and, for argument’s sake, potential conference alignments) would shake out:

For all sports but football
4A East: Gillette, Thunder Basin, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Cheyenne Central, Sheridan.
4A West: Kelly Walsh, Natrona, Rock Springs, Laramie, Evanston, Green River.
(Alternatively, a quadrant system of Gillette, Thunder Basin and Sheridan in the Northeast, Cheyenne schools in the Southeast, Casper schools and Laramie in the “Central” and Rock Springs, Green River and Evanston in the Southwest.)
Largest school: Kelly Walsh (ADM 1893). Smallest: Green River (ADM 873).

3A East: Riverton, Douglas, Lander, Rawlins, Torrington, Buffalo.
3A West: Jackson, Star Valley, Cody, Powell, Worland, Pinedale.
(Alternatively, a quadrant system of Riverton, Lander and Rawlins in the “Central,” Douglas, Torrington and Buffalo in the “East,” Cody, Powell and Worland in the Northwest and Star Valley, Jackson and Pinedale in the Southwest.)
Largest school: Jackson (ADM 742). Smallest: Pinedale (ADM 299).

2A Northeast: Newcastle, Moorcroft, Big Horn, Tongue River, Wright, Sundance.
2A Southeast: Wheatland, Glenrock, Burns, Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk.
2A Northwest: Thermopolis, Lovell, Greybull, Rocky Mountain, Shoshoni, Riverside.
2A Southwest: Mountain View, Lyman, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Wyoming Indian, Wind River.
Largest school: Wheatland (ADM 272). Smallest: Riverside (ADM 90).

1A Northeast: Upton, NSI, Midwest, Hulett, Kaycee, Arvada-Clearmont.
1A Southeast: Lingle, Guernsey, Hanna, Rock River, Glendo, Chugwater.
1A Northwest: Burlington, Dubois, St. Stephens, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.
1A Southwest: Saratoga, Cokeville, Snake River, Farson, Encampment.
Largest school: Upton (ADM 87).

+++

For football
4A and 3A: Same as other sports.

2A-Division 1 East: Wheatland, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Moorcroft, Glenrock, Burns.
2A-Division 1 West: Mountain View, Lyman, Lovell, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Greybull.
Largest school: Wheatland (ADM 272). Smallest: Greybull (ADM 176).

2A-Division 2 East: Big Horn, Tongue River, Wright, Sundance (Upton-Sundance for football), Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk.
2A-Division 2 West: Wyoming Indian, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Shoshoni, Riverside, Cokeville (likely opt up), Saratoga (co-op with Encampment forces move up).
Largest school: Big Horn (ADM 159). Smallest: Riverside (ADM 90). (Riverside’s continuation in six-man football if desired is easily accommodated, as is Upton-Sundance, either as a co-op or as two independent programs with Upton in either 11-man or six-man.)

1A Northeast: NSI, Midwest, Hulett, Kaycee.
1A Southeast: Lingle, Guernsey, Hanna, Rock River. (or a combined 1A East)
1A Northwest: Burlington, St. Stephens, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.
1A Southwest: Dubois, Snake River, Farson. (or a combined 1A West)
Largest football school: Lingle (ADM 83). (All 1A football would be six-man. Technically, both Upton and Saratoga would be classified as six-man schools but would likely compete in 11-man due to existing co-ops, while it’s likely Cokeville, a 1A program, would opt up to 2A for football.)

For all sports except football, four classifications is the right number. How Wyoming arranges those four is the problem.

The 12-16-20-rest setup worked when established in 2001. It doesn’t work as well now.

No solution will fix all the problems. Someone will always be the big school, and someone will always be the small school. I fear a 12-12-24-rest setup may just shift 3A’s competitiveness problems to 2A. However, I do think this tweak will help close the gaps between the biggest and smallest schools in every class except 2A, and I think competitiveness at the 2A level will be evened out by the number of schools in the classification. Both competitiveness and shrinking school size, especially in Class 3A, can be addressed with this change.

For perspective, let’s look at the sport that’s been more or less ignored in this discussion so far: football.

Since 2001, Wyoming’s non-football classification structure has remained the same. Football’s classification structure in that same time period, meanwhile, has seen at least one change with every single reclassification cycle, with the notable exception of the transition from 2015 to 2016.

It’s absurd to think that football’s classification system deserves biannual tinkering and the system used for the rest of the state’s sports does not.

Fortunately, I think, the answer is simple. And one small change could set the course for Wyoming for another decade.

Do you have ideas for changing Wyoming’s high school sports classifications? Post a comment and share your designs!

–patrick

fun-and-games-until-1512157-640x480

Get caught up. Read part 1.

Competitiveness is a concern in Wyoming’s Class 3A more than any other classification.

Consistently, the smallest schools in Class 3A have little to no hope of competing for state championships. In fact, schools ranked in spots 25 through 28 in enrollment in the past five-plus years haven’t won a single state championship in any sport except football (which uses five classes).

Mountain View, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Lyman, Glenrock and Lovell — the six schools that have alternately occupied the bottom four spots in the 16-school Class 3A since the 2010-11 school year — have won a combined zero state titles at the 3A level in that span.

However, 3A’s four largest schools (Jackson, Star Valley, Cody and Douglas) have won 45 3A titles in those five-and-a-half years. And that doesn’t even count football titles or Jackson’s numerous all-class championships in alpine and Nordic skiing.

The only class that measures up similarly is 1A, where the bottom quarter of schools have also been held without a non-football state title since 2010-11. However, some of those schools, like Glendo and Chugwater, are so small that they don’t field varsity programs for many sports.

The bottom quarter of schools in 4A and 2A have won 6.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively, of those classifications’ state non-football championships in that same span. Those numbers are well above 3A’s 0.0 percent.

Bottom 25 percent in 3A: 0 non-football titles
Bottom 25 percent in 4A: 6 non-football titles (6.1 percent) (not counting 3A schools like Jackson that have won all-class titles in sports like Nordic or alpine skiing).
Bottom 25 percent in 2A: 4 non-football titles (7.7 percent)
Bottom 25 percent in 1A: 0 non-football titles

+++

The struggles for competitiveness in 3A go beyond just the bottom four schools.

The eight smallest schools, or the schools in the bottom half, of 3A have won just 11 of the 76 non-football 3A titles awarded since the 2010-11 school year. That means the bottom half of schools in the 3A class have won just 14.4 percent of the 3A state titles — the lowest percentage of any of Wyoming’s four classifications.

Comparatively, in other classifications, those figures are much higher.

In 4A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 31.6 percent of the non-football titles (again not counting 3A schools like Jackson that have won all-class titles in sports like Nordic skiing or alpine skiing — which, if included, would make that percentage even higher).

In 2A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 21.2 percent of non-football titles.

In 1A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 33.3 percent of non-football titles (Snake River, which is at the midpoint of the 1A rankings, was placed in the bottom half to account for schools like Chugwater and Glendo that don’t consistently field varsity programs for many sports.)

Clearly, in 3A, the smallest schools in the classification have the toughest time winning state championships, and 3A’s rates are significantly worse than other classifications.

Something is wrong.

+++

The 3A struggles are more pronounced in some sports than others. In four of the 14 sports offered at the 3A level (excluding football), the eight smallest schools have been shut out of  state championships for more than a decade. For example, the last bottom-half team to win the boys track and field title was Torrington in 2002; the last bottom-half team to win the girls swimming title was Newcastle in 2002; the last bottom-half team to win the boys swimming title was Lyman in 1990. A team in the bottom half of 3A has never won a girls cross country title.

Class 4A, conversely, doesn’t have that problem. The longest bottom-half drought in the 22 4A (or one-class) sports is in boys track and field, which hasn’t been one by a bottom-half team since Laramie in 1996; girls swimming hasn’t had a bottom-half winner since Laramie in 2001; wrestling hasn’t had a bottom-half winner (or any winner but Gillette) since Green River in 2002. However, 17 of 4A’s 22 sports have had at least one bottom-half winner since 2010.

And in 2A and 1A, the biggest gaps are in 2A girls basketball (no bottom-half champions since Lusk in 1999), 1A boys track (no bottom-half champs since Farson in 1998) and 1A girls track (no bottom-half champs since Albin in 2003). They are the only three of the 15 sports offered at the 2A and 1A levels haven’t had at least one bottom-half champion since 2006.

Football, too, has no such problems. In fact, in the past six seasons, schools in the bottom half of their classifications in enrollment have won 13 of the 30 titles (43 percent) — twice in 4A (Sheridan), three times in 3A (Powell), once at 2A (Big Horn), five times at 1A 11-man (Cokeville and Southeast) and twice in 1A six-man (Kaycee and Meeteetse).

+++

But competitiveness isn’t just about championships. Right now, those bottom quarter of schools in 3A are struggling just to keep up. Just look at the 2014-15 school year’s culminating events to see how the bottom four schools in Class 3A in terms of enrollment (Newcastle, Mountain View, Glenrock and Lovell) fared at the state level. It wasn’t pretty.

The best finish was the Mountain View girls’ second-place finish in volleyball and the Lovell girls’ second-place finish in girls basketball. Mountain View’s girls also finished third in girls basketball and sixth in boys cross country; Lovell’s boys finished fifth in track and field; and Newcastle’s girls finished sixth in girls swimming. No other teams in the bottom quarter of 3A finished higher than sixth. For golf, soccer and swimming, at least three of the four schools didn’t even field teams in those sports.

So far in 2015-16, the highest finish for a bottom-four school in 3A is Mountain View’s second-place finish in volleyball. No other bottom-four team has finished higher than fifth at state so far this year in any other sport.

The problem of 3A isn’t a problem tied to the competitiveness of the individual schools, either. Schools at the bottom of 3A have proven they know how to win when given the chance in 2A. The six schools alternately holding down the bottom four spots in 3A the past five and a half years (Glenrock, Lovell, Thermopolis, Lyman, Mountain View and Newcastle) have combined to win 14 state championships at the 2A level since the 2010-11 school year. (And Glenrock and Newcastle have both been 3A all that time.)

And therein might be the key to a solution.

Part 3, tomorrow: A potential solution to the biggest problem in Wyoming’s high school sports’ classification system.

–patrick

number-28-1445244-638x425

The last major change to Wyoming’s high school classification system came in 2001.

In the past 15 years, the system hasn’t changed. The schools have.

Wyoming’s high schools — and, by proxy, the Wyoming High School Activities Association — have struggled to devise a classification system that works for all schools for all sports except football. The problems show up most significantly in Class 3A, particularly those in the bottom quarter of the 16-team classification.

Not only are the schools at the bottom of Class 3A smaller, they’re also less competitive than they were 15 years ago. However, a small tweak to the state’s existing classification system could help solve the problem that’s dogged the bottom of 3A, and therefore the entire system, for the past several years.

+++

In Wyoming high school sports, no school has it more difficult than school No. 28.

When the Wyoming High School Activities Association sets its classifications every two years, school No. 28 of Wyoming’s 71 athletics-sponsoring high schools is in a difficult spot — the smallest school in Class 3A.

Consistently, the same schools end up in the 28th spot: Mountain View, Thermopolis, Lovell, Glenrock and Lyman. And Mountain View, Thermopolis, Lovell and Kemmerer have all recently been school 29 — the biggest in Class 2A.

In 2001, when the WHSAA went from enrollment-based cutoffs (e.g., smaller than 104 students was 1A, and so on) to a set number of schools per classification (the 12 largest in 4A, the next 16 largest in 3A, the next 20 largest in 2A, the rest in 1A), the splits worked pretty well. The smallest 3A school, school 28, floated at about 300 students; the largest 2A school was about 250 students, or maybe a bit smaller. However, that cutoff has changed dramatically. For the next reclassification cycle, set to start in the fall of 2016, school 28 will be Lyman at 210 students. In 1998, the school ranked 28th — the cutoff between 3A and 2A — had 288 students.

The problem, though, isn’t that the smallest 3A schools are shrinking. It’s that the biggest schools in 3A aren’t shrinking as fast.

In the past 15 years, the largest discrepancy to crop up is the one between the largest and smallest schools in Class 3A. Almost all schools near the 3A/2A cutoff line 15 years ago — Kemmerer, Glenrock, Mountain View, Lyman, Lovell, Thermopolis, Newcastle, Wheatland — have all gotten smaller. The ones that have grown only grew by minuscule amounts. (The exception is Pinedale, where natural gas development prompted a huge influx of students.) The schools at the top of 3A are smaller, too… but their rate of loss is not nearly like that of those schools near the bottom of the classification.

And while the most recent reclassification cycle has Glenrock, Kemmerer and Lovell in 2A, the other four small schools hovering near the 2A/3A cutoff (Newcastle, Wheatland, Lyman and Thermopolis) are still in 3A despite having lost significant numbers of students.

This is almost exclusively a 3A problem. For 4A, 2A and 1A, the 12-16-20-rest setup continues to work. For example, the gap between the largest 2A school and the smallest 2A school has remained fairly static: In 2005, the smallest 2A school had 97 students; entering 2016, it will be at 87.

Here’s a quick glance at the school ranked 13th (largest 3A using current classification rules), schools 24-28 (the bottom five in 3A) and 29-32 (the largest three in 2A) over the years:

1976
13. Powell, 645

24. Wheatland, 322
25. Lovell, 266
26. Kemmerer, 262
27. Greybull, 227
28. Glenrock, 217
——-
29. Lusk, 203
30. St. Mary’s, 190
31. Sundance, 181
32. Pinedale, 178

1981
13. Cody, 718

24. Glenrock, 330
25. Thermopolis, 316
26. Lovell, 247
27. Kemmerer, 233
28. Greybull, 214
——-
29. Lyman, 197
30. Pinedale, 192
31. Hanna, 192
32. Sundance, 192

1985
13. Cody, 693

24. Glenrock, 321
25. Thermopolis, 304
26. Kemmerer, 248
27. Lyman, 237
28. Mountain View, 236
——-
29. Lovell, 228
30. Greybull, 192
31. Wind River, 187
32. Pinedale, 185

1998
13. Lander, 787

24. Kemmerer, 331
25. Lyman, 316
26. Mountain View, 309
27. Glenrock, 306
28. Thermopolis, 288
——-
29. Lovell, 254
30. Wyoming Indian, 240
31. Big Piney, 218
32. Wright, 200

2005
13. Jackson, 743

24. Glenrock, 257
25. Kemmerer, 244
26. Pinedale, 221
27. Thermopolis, 216
28. Mountain View, 213
——-
29. Lovell, 209
30. Lyman, 200
31. Big Piney, 192
32. Greybull, 168

2007
13. Cody, 695

24. Glenrock, 253
25. Pinedale, 249
26. Kemmerer, 210
27. Lyman, 208
28. Lovell, 204
——-
29. Mountain View, 196
30. Thermopolis, 189
31. Big Piney, 179
32. Wright, 173

2009
13. Cody, 671

24. Newcastle, 260
25. Glenrock, 223
26. Lyman, 218
27. Mountain View, 213
28. Thermopolis, 204
——-
29. Kemmerer, 199
30. Lovell, 199
31. Big Piney, 187
32. Burns, 181

2011
13. Star Valley, 734

24. Wheatland, 286
25. Newcastle, 248
26. Mountain View, 226
27. Lyman, 225
28. Glenrock, 219
——-
29. Lovell, 214
30. Big Piney, 203
31. Thermopolis, 201
32. Kemmerer and Burns, 183

2014
13. Star Valley, 717

24. Wheatland, 298
25. Newcastle, 237
26. Mountain View, 222
27. Glenrock, 222
28. Lovell, 215
——-
29. Thermopolis, 210
30. Lyman, 204
31. Big Piney, 198
32. Kemmerer, 177

2016
13. Riverton, 742

24. Wheatland, 272
25. Mountain View, 236
26. Newcastle, 224
27. Thermopolis, 215
28. Lyman, 210
——-
29. Lovell, 204
30. Moorcroft, 193
31. Big Piney, 192
32. Glenrock, 191

+++

As noted, the problem is not just the schools’ ranking — it’s also their size relative to other 3A schools.

This wouldn’t be a problem if competitiveness had stayed consistent even as the enrollments have changed. Over the past five years, though, we’ve seen a definitive shift in 3A’s competitiveness.

In short, no size means no chance. For 3A, the 12-16-20-rest classification splits have been a competitive death sentence for schools at the bottom.

Part 2, tomorrow: How small 3A schools’ decreasing enrollments has diminished those schools’ ability to stay competitive.

–patrick

Post Navigation