When the Wyoming High School Activities Association handed nonconference football scheduling back to individual schools, reducing travel was the goal.
The schools came through on that end — big time.
A breakdown of the 2017 schedule shows travel is going to be down. WAY down.
The average Wyoming high school football road game trip this year, one way, is going to be more than 20 miles shorter than it was last year. And the average nonconference trip, one way, is going to be 70 miles shorter than it was last year. Even one-way mileage for conference games is down:
- Average one-way trip for all games: 175 miles, down from 196 last year
- Average one-way trip for conference games: 183 miles, down from 189 last year
- Average one-way trip for nonconference games: 147 miles, down from 217 last year
Meanwhile, the median one-way nonconference trip this season will be 137 miles; the median one-way trip in 2016 was 221 miles.
In part, this is because some of the absurdly long trips teams made have also been pared down. In 2016, seven games had one-way trips of more than 400 miles; in 2017, only one game (the ridiculous Torrington-Star Valley game) is more than 400 miles one way.
Also, shorter trips are more numerous. Last season, 24 games had one-way trips of 50 miles or less; this year, 34 such games are scheduled.
A big reason for the mileage reduction is schools’ ability to schedule sub-varsity games in nonconference weeks. Five schools, so far, have taken advantage of that opportunity, and more may do so before the season starts in August.
Another thing that helped reduce the longest trips was Evanston’s move from 4A to 3A, which eliminated the Red Devils’ trips to, or their opponents’ trips from, Gillette and Sheridan — traditionally the longest trips on the Wyoming high school football schedule regardless of classification.
The reduced travel comes with tradeoffs, though.
Namely, eight schools don’t have full schedules. Rocky Mountain, Tongue River, Powell, Evanston, Cody and Wright all tentatively have bye weeks scheduled; Rocky Mountain actually has two open weeks, back-to-back, right now. Also, Riverton and Douglas have a scrimmage scheduled for the opening week of the season, which is far from ideal. No one had a scheduled open week last season.
We’ve seen that competitive equity scheduling increased travel but decreased competitiveness. Those trends continued in both 2015 and 2016. Maybe 2017 will bring us closer games AND reduced travel. For eight programs, though, the tradeoff might be one (or more) Friday night on the couch instead of on the field.
How mileage was calculated: Using Google Maps directions, distances from city to city were calculated for each game of the 2016 season and each scheduled game for the 2017 season. Scrimmages and jamborees were not considered. Games involving Upton-Sundance used the closer of the two schools for road games and the actual site for home games. Travel went “through the park” via Yellowstone when possible. Google Maps’ suggestions were used unless a shorter mileage option that did not significantly add to travel time (15 minutes or more) was available.