The news that Burlington is all but abandoning its 11-man schedule for a series of six-man games this year isn’t all that surprising. The Huskies struggled with participation numbers both last year and this year and are scheduled to move to six-man officially in 2016.
However, Burlington’s move appears to be the first time in at least 50 years that a team has started a season, canceled it, and scheduled what amounts to an entirely new series of games in its place.
Canceling a season once it has started? That’s not new. I found seven instances in the past 50 years in Wyoming where a team canceled or forfeited at least two games at the end of its season:
- In 2002, NSI played three games but forfeited its final three contests after the school’s students suffered food poisoning brought on by some bad chow in the institution’s cafeteria.
- In 1994, dwindling participation numbers at Ten Sleep forced the Pioneers to cancel two games, although the program held out long enough to play its scheduled season finale against Meeteetse.
- Something similar happened to Ten Sleep in 1992; the Pioneers forfeited their final two games, both nonconference games, after going winless in their conference games.
- Farson played three games in 1990 before forfeiting one; the Pronghorns came back for one more game and then forfeited their final three. The season was Farson’s last until 2009.
- The 1975 season in Dubois was also stopped short as the Rams forfeited their final two games of the season.
- Meeteetse started its 1971 season 5-1 but had to forfeit its final three games of the season.
- And in 1965, Pavillion started 2-2 but canceled its final two games.
Other programs have scheduled sub-varsity seasons — for example, Hulett in 2010, Midwest in 2008 and 2002, Ten Sleep in 2008 and 2007, Meeteetse in 2002 and Dubois in 1998 — against either sub-varsity teams or generous-feeling varsity squads. However, those plans came together before the start of a season.
Meanwhile, some teams have scheduled a season only to have it end before the first snap: Tongue River in 2011, for example. (I outlined canceled seasons and sub-varsity seasons on this blog in 2011.)
And, meanwhile, some teams have successfully petitioned the WHSAA to “play down” and play teams in a different classification, but with the loss of playoff opportunities as a consequence (like Wyoming Indian did in 2007-08, or Lusk in 1990-92).
But a team has never had the chance to do what Burlington is doing this season — start a season with the intention of finishing it, but then cancel the season in time to build what basically amounts to a new schedule.
Good for Burlington. Playing is better than not playing. And I’m glad to see that Burlington’s future opponents now have chances to schedule new games in place of the Burlington game. Three already have.
The mess for wyoming-football.com is figuring out how to record something unprecedented.
Here’s where the record-keeper in me gets into this.
As the unelected, self-appointed documenter of Wyoming high school football history (a title that carries as much weight as the pope of Chilitown), I have to decide what counts here and what doesn’t. I feel a responsibility to fully reflect a season in its entirety. That’s why I fight back so hard during Zero Week, when I say if it looks like a game and gets timed like a game and gets played like a game and gets officiated like a game, it’s a game, regardless of what the WHSAA says.
As noted, Burlington’s case is unique. Its forfeit losses will count — after all, it started the season and then, unlike mass cancellations of seasons past, played it week by week.
Usually, occasional weekly forfeits are just recorded as a loss; everyone plays again next week and we move on. It happens. But when a team forfeits, and then forfeits again, and then forfeits again, and THEN decides to schedule a bunch of new games, that makes things a bit trickier.
In situations where teams have canceled seasons or moved to JV schedules prior to the start of a season, I’ve simply wiped the slate clean. For example, the 2011 Tongue River season isn’t a bunch of forfeit losses. It just doesn’t exist. I feel that’s a more accurate reflection of Tongue River’s 2011 season than to have the Eagles listed at 0-8 that season, which is what the Wyoming High School Activities Association did that season.
And in situations where a team cancels or forfeits to end a year, I just note that. Generally, when that’s been done, any scheduled games other teams play to take the place of those missed games are tallied, as well, and counted toward that team’s final record — but, generally, teams haven’t scheduled new games to make up for the ones they miss via forfeit.
This situation is unique both for Burlington and for its opponents who were fortunate enough to schedule new games in place of playing the Huskies. That’s what Cokeville, Shoshoni and Rocky Mountain have already done. My conundrum: Count ONLY the forfeited game? Or count BOTH the forfeited game AND the new game?
Like I said, I feel part of my responsibility, not only to this season but to every season, is to record and reflect the season as a whole. That’s why the first option — counting only the forfeited game but not the game played in its stead — feels fraudulent. In doing so, I’d be counting something that didn’t happen on the field (a forfeit) but not counting something that did (the make-up game). That just doesn’t feel right.
And that says nothing about the six-man games Burlington will play. Do I count those alongside the forfeits in Burlington’s season record? Ignore the nomenclature for a second, that Burlington itself is calling these games “exhibitions,” and look at the reality: Best players on the field. Score kept. Feels like a game; should be counted like one, right?
What do you think? Let me know what you think would be most appropriate. Leave me a comment and help me reason this through.
Just don’t bring up Zero Week. 🙂