Several years ago, my dad gave me a stash of old material that he figured I could use more than he could. In that pile was a 1976-77 WHSAA directory, which — much like today’s directory — included the coaches for each sport, phone numbers, addresses and mascots for every school.

But the old WHSAA directories also included enrollment figures alongside each school’s listing, providing a nice glimpse into the makeup of Wyoming’s classification structure for that era.

In 1976, of course, Wyoming had only three classifications of football — Class AA, Class A and Class B. For football, the largest 14 schools were Class AA, the next 15 were Class A and the rest (33 schools in 1976, including 29 11-man schools and four eight-man schools) were Class B. (See the 1976 classifications and conferences here.)

But what if we retroactively applied the 2014 classification structure, with five classifications and the six-man option, to the state with its 1976 enrollments? What would the conferences have looked like back then with today’s conference structures? And if we squint really hard, can we gain some insights into the state’s current classification structure?

Well, first things first: Since 1976, we’ve lost some schools and we’ve gained some schools. In all, 11 high schools that were open in 1976 are no longer open (St. Mary’s, Medicine Bow, Byron, Goshen Hole, Jeffrey City, Cowley, Deaver-Frannie, Albin, La Grange, Huntley, Manderson). They’re included here. On the flipside, since 1976, Wyoming has had six schools opened or renamed due to consolidation (Cheyenne South, NSI, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, Southeast, Wright). They’re not included here.

Here’s how the conferences would have looked in 1976 if we had used the 2014 conference structure:

Class 4A
1. Natrona, 2,126
2. Cheyenne East, 1,577
3. Cheyenne Central, 1,309
4. Kelly Walsh, 1,301
5. Laramie, 1,196
6. Rock Springs, 1,152
7. Sheridan, 1,112
8. Riverton, 970
9. Gillette, 923
10. Lander, 854

Class 3A East
12. Rawlins, 696
16. Torrington, 554
19. Newcastle, 414
20. Thermopolis, 390
21. Buffalo, 388
22. Douglas, 360
Class 3A West

11. Cody, 733
13. Powell, 645
14. Worland, 582
15. Green River, 556
17. Star Valley, 486
18. Jackson, 434

Class 2A East
24. Wheatland, 322
28. Glenrock, 217
29. Lusk, 203
30. St. Mary’s, 190
31. Sundance, 181
35. Pine Bluffs, 150
36. Tongue River, 146
Class 2A West
23. Evanston, 355
25. Lovell, 266
26. Kemmerer, 262
27. Greybull, 227
32. Pinedale, 178
33. Big Piney, 177
34. Saratoga, 157

Class 1A 11-man East
37t. Upton, 145
41. Lingle, 129
44. Guernsey, 121
45. Moorcroft, 111
47. Big Horn, 104
48. Burns, 102
50. Midwest, 93
51. Medicine Bow, 90
Class 1A 11-man West
37t. Lyman, 145
39. Wind River, 144
40. Wyoming Indian, 138
42t. Basin, 126
42t. Mountain View, 126
46. Hanna, 109
49. Dubois, 97
52. Meeteetse, 84

Class 1A six-man East(ish)
53. Shoshoni, 83
54. Hulett, 80
57. Cokeville, 68
59. Goshen Hole, 62
65. Glendo, 55
Class 1A six-man West (but really Northwest)
56. Burlington, 70
58. Byron, 66
62. Ten Sleep, 56
63. Cowley, 55
64. Deaver-Frannie, 55

Other schools without football programs, with their 1976 enrollments, included Snake River (72), Encampment (59), Jeffrey City (58), Albin (50), Kaycee (48), La Grange (48), Huntley (46), Arvada-Clearmont (45), Manderson (39), Rock River (36), Chugwater (35) and Farson (29). St. Stephens was not a WHSAA member in 1976.

In this scenario, the conference alignments actually line up pretty well. The only place where it gets messy is in six-man, where a predominance of Bighorn Basin teams makes up half the teams in the classification. Splitting those up into two even conferences would be an exercise in futility — so we end up with a “conference” that has Goshen Hole, Cokeville and Hulett all under one umbrella.

We’re stretching it a bit in Class 2A; we’ve got Evanston and Saratoga — two schools that have never played each other in football — in the same conference. And we’ve had to split up some natural geographic rivals to fit them into classifications and conferences. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

That 3A West sure looks familiar, though.

If we retroactively did some playoff brackets in 1976 with these alignments, we’d likely get championship games that look like this:

Class 4A: Laramie over Cheyenne Central. Without pesky Cody there to ruin it, Laramie coach John Deti Sr. finishes his career with a state title. Laramie beat Central 16-9 in the regular season.
Class 3A: Cody over Green River. Cody was the Class AA champ in 1976, while Green River won the Class A crown. Cody had the edge, thanks to a 2-0 record against common opponents (Green River was 1-1).
Class 2A: Glenrock over Kemmerer. Glenrock didn’t lose to any of the schools classified in this scenario as “2A” schools, while Kemmerer only lost to Evanston and had avenged that loss with a victory earlier in the season. They only had one common opponent, Thermopolis — a team Glenrock beat but Kemmerer didn’t.
Class 1A 11-man: Lyman over Guernsey-Sunrise. This was actually the Class B title game. It’s so nice when we have actual playoff brackets to reference….
Class 1A six-man: Byron over Cokeville. Byron was the Northwest’s representative in the Class B playoffs in 1976 but would have gotten a big challenge from Cokeville, which nearly knocked eventual Class B state champ Lyman from the playoffs.

Next week: 1985 in five classes.


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