Multiple items were discussed at Tuesday's meeting of the Wyoming High School Activities Associations Board of Directors, including two subjects that have brought the most impassioned debate: 9-man football and fast-pitch softball. And while the same can't be said for every topic, those two considerations have a place in future WHSAA discussions.
A definitive list of 9-man and 9-man-adjacent teams was presented for the first time. A breakdown of 17 schools (nine in the East Conference, eight in the West Conference) listed in Class 2A (which would remain 11-man), 14 schools (an even seven-seven split) would compete in Class 1A/6-man and 13 schools (six in the East and seven in the West) would compete in Class 1A/9-man as it was presented Tuesday. The list did include Rock River in 6-man, even though the Longhorns have already forfeited their upcoming season.
The board voted this through unanimously and it will be revisited at the next meeting in April. The list of schools are likely to change between now and its implementation, as the Average Daily Membership numbers change for the 2020-2021 reclassification cycle.
If passed at the next reading, 9-man football will be played starting with the 2020 season.
Saratoga's request to be eligible for the Class 1A/6-man postseason failed unanimously. Despite losing some athletes to Encampment, which has been approved for junior varsity competition, the Panthers will take over Rock River's conference schedule while being postseason ineligible. The board cited precedent, while hoping Saratoga athletes would still be considered for all-conference and all-state honors.
Since three high schools have now adopted budgets allowing for softball -- a group attended a Natrona County School District board meeting in January, another group is already scheduled to attend a Campbell County School District board meeting, and Laramie and Cheyenne have advocates ready to make their pitches -- the WHSAA lobbied the idea of a pilot season for fast-pitch softball. That would have given schools an opportunity to play a season in order to work any issues out before any formal vote on sanctioning.
Softball season in Wyoming would be in the spring, running under the same parameters as soccer and track seasons. The idea of extending softball season by a few weeks into the summer was floated outside of the board but current club softball programs were not in favor of that because it runs too far into the club season. Then there's the logistical issues of getting coaches certified, officials cleared and installing mechanic camps for potential softball players.
The idea of the pilot season was ultimately shot down. Instead, the WHSAA Board of Directors will wait until eight schools adopt softball before sanctioning it, which would likely coincide with the 2020-21 reclassification cycle.
Various other items up for discussion included:
- Changing the game limit for soccer teams to 16 regular-season contests, up from its current 14. That vote failed because some teams already have issues scheduling games, and keeping open dates for rescheduling is necessity in Wyoming. And the board didn't want to set precedent for other sports like basketball.
- The board did discuss clarification to a rule already in place. Athletes who participate in an event not affiliated with the WHSAA during that sport's high school season will have that non-affiliated event count toward their event limit. One example brought forth was that someone who participates in Fun Runs or a Road Race during the high school cross-country season will have those races count toward their meet limit.
- The board also went through more steps to eliminate a required 20 hours in class per week in order to be eligible to participate. That decision comes as more high school students take college courses during the school day. Any rule change would also maintain grade-eligibility standards.
- Once again there will be a conflict with the Casper College women's basketball team likely hosting a Region IX North tournament game at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym during the Class 1A/2A state basketball championships. If that happens, Class 1A semifinals will be played at Natrona County High School that Friday.
- And if the Casper College men host the Region IX tournament, that would come during Class 3A/4A basketball championships. As a solution, if Kelly Walsh qualifies it would play at Natrona County that day and all other 4A games would be played at Kelly Walsh. Consolation games will not be affected and the Class 3A semifinals will be played at Kelly Walsh regardless.
- All games during the state basketball tournaments will be made available to stream on National Federation of High Schools' website (NFHS.com). All tournament wrestling matches and championship spirit competitions will also stream there.
- All bids for culminating events passed, which included football championships still being played at War Memorial Stadium through the 2021 season. However, with the 2020-21 bid, the University of Wyoming would take a 30 percent cut from the door instead of the former 25 percent. That's something the board will keep a financial eye on in future bids.
- The board also discussed clock operators for postseason football games. After events that transpired between Torrington and Jackson in last year's 3A semifinal, the board talked about building awareness and communication between officials. They mentioned that they did not want to overreact to that issue.