The option of the six-man game may no longer be an option for Class 1A schools.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association discussed on Tuesday the possibility of a set number of 11-man schools -- like all other classes -- or a hard enrollment cutoff between the 11-man and six-man classifications during its second board of directors meeting of the academic year.
The discussion of the future of the state's lowest class grew out of the decision by the WHSAA to honor the requests of three current 11-man schools to join six-man football for the 2013 season. All three schools -- Saratoga, NSI Academy and Wyoming Indian -- cited declining enrollment and participation numbers as the reason behind those requests. St. Stephens as also granted its request to field a varsity team for next year, meaning there will be 14 teams in the six-man classification and 11 in 11-man.
Board member Shon Hocker added that when the board voted to add the six-man classification four years ago, it was with the intent of allowing small schools to add football programs and kick-starting the new classification.
But Hocker added that allowance to chose 11-man or 6-man flies in the face of the WHSAA's football philosophy. By designating the top-10 schools Class 4A, with a set number of schools comprising each classification down the ladder, allowing 1A schools to pick makes a top-down system upside down.
"It wasn't our intent to allow all 11-man teams to pick" either six-man or 11-man football, Hocker said.
WHSAA commissioner Ron Laird will bring the board's discussion to a Tuesday meeting with Class 1A football schools. The board discussed making the top-12 Class 1A schools the 11-man classification, with the rest six-man. An average daily membership cutline of 80 -- schools above are 11-man, those below are six-man -- was also discussed, which aligned with the top-12 schools suggestion. Traditional 11-man schools, like Burlington and Cokeville, can opt to play 11-man.
There were concerns about allowing larger 1A schools to play six-man, find success, and then watch participation numbers skyrocket again to point where a competitive 11-man team could take the field. Board members didn't accuse those three schools of joining six-man simply for a chance to be more competitive; the three teams won a combined three games this fall.
But the current choice is an example of backward competitive balance, board member Tim Winland said.
"We don't force Cokeville to opt up to 2A because they win championships year after year," Winland said.
The board does not want to eliminate teams or programs, and it's still too early to tell if success at the six-man game will lead to increased participation in those larger 1A schools. All three schools offer cross country in the fall, and Saratoga added golf this year.
Board member Chris Gray was in favor of a set ADM number because he felt "the direction we're going is phasing out 11-man football" at the small-school level. And as Tom Wilson noted: "You have the option to opt up or you have the option to opt down."
The current dilemma is just another example of how much of domino situation the football landscape has become in Wyoming.
"We make one move," Laird said, "and it effects all the way down."
Or in the this case, all the way up.