High school football players in Wyoming received word of a re-engineered fifth classification on Tuesday afternoon. Less than an hour later their female classmates were told they would have to wait at least 5 more months before their latest attempt at equality would move forward.
With only seven member schools voting in favor of adopting softball the Wyoming High School Activities Association could not move a proposal forward to sanction the sport in the Spring of 2021. The WHSAA requires eight member schools for implementation of a sport. Participating program numbers can drop as low as six after that, which would start a 2-year probationary period before the sport either resumes play or is disbanded.
Boys are currently offered 11 high school sports in Wyoming while girls have just 10, although girls are allowed to compete in male-dominated football and wrestling.
The current list of seven schools that approved softball is: Cody, Gillette, Green River, Kelly Walsh, Natrona County, Rock Springs and Thunder Basin. Albany County School District No. 1 pledged to revisit its softball vote after voting its budget for the upcoming 2019-20 school year. A previous motion to adopt softball in February failed with a 4-4 tie.
WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird explained to the present board of directors that he’d been approached by school district representatives for a hard deadline. The WHSAA has declined to set a deadline for application, although Laird explained (and the board agreed) they would like to know which programs and how many would be competing by their September meeting so that a proposal to adopt softball could clear its necessary first and second readings during the November and February meetings, respectively.
In addition, Laird stated that they want to bring officials from potential softball programs together in the interim for preliminary meetings.
The WHSAA board of directors also brought more news concerning high school football on Tuesday. Notably, changing semifinal football games in 2019 to Saturday instead of Friday because the University of Wyoming football team is scheduled to play on the road that day. Citing time out of class and an easing of schedules, the WHSAA will schedule all semifinal football games for Saturday, Nov. 9, instead of the day before, because the Wyoming Cowboys will be playing at Boise State. Competing schools, however, can agree to play on Friday instead. That is also the same weekend as the 2019 Wyoming State High School Volleyball Championships.
A number of other items were brought up, including a proposal that would overhaul seeding at regional wrestling tournaments. That largely-supported proposal would eliminate a rules provision that states the order of finish of returning state placers at the same weight helps determine regional seeding. The board hopes to strike that language because it could potentially penalize a returning state champion for moving up in weight as they continue to grow through adolescence.
The board also brought an item to limit the number of golfers participating in the Class 4A state meet. The board unanimously voted in favor of the proposal, which would set a qualifying standard for the top four teams and top 20 individuals. Swimming, track and field and indoor track all have qualifying marks athletes need to attain in order to qualify for the state meet. Cross-country is the only other sport without a qualifying standard, as all seven varsity runners on a team can participate at the state meet.
There was also a brief discussion — but no vote — on clarifying academic and event qualifying standards across sports. The board stressed that with the added emphasis on college prep courses, online classes and alternative education, they’d want to keep an attainable standard for athletes hoping to compete. They also talked about clarifying the maximum number of events an athlete can compete in, as some standout track athletes go on to compete in the Simplot Games and Arcadia Invitational. If an athlete hits the maximum number of allowable events before the state meet, they are not allowed to compete at the state competition.
United States Golf Association representatives also got in touch with the WHSAA about its new ruling. The WHSAA ultimately agreed to the new rule that states if a golfer wins an amateur golf tournament over the summer then they can decline prize winnings, in certain cases, for a $300 scholarship if the event so offers.