Wyoming is a bit too classy. Let me rephrase that: Wyoming high school football is too classy.
Wyoming currently has 65 teams making up five classes of football. One of those teams, Upton-Sundance, is comprised of two schools. Take out the 1A 6-man classification, and you’re looking at 49 football teams. That’s not enough teams to justify four classes.
For comparison, although Wyoming and Colorado are clearly very different population wise, our neighbor to the south has 206 teams making up five classes — Colorado also has 43 8-man teams and 32 6-man teams.
Sure, Colorado has way more teams than Wyoming in general. And as a result, it has one more classification than Wyoming — Colorado’s classes are, smallest to largest, 1A to 5A, while Wyoming has 1A to 4A.
More teams justify more classes.
And both states’ classes are broken down fairly evenly with similar numbers of teams per class.
However, Colorado still has more than four times as many football teams and only one additional class. For example, Colorado 5A has 40 teams by itself. Wyoming’s top class has 10 teams.
To match the spread of Wyoming, Colorado would need 17 classifications.
Now, combining all of Wyoming into one class, while it would match Colorado 5A pretty closely, numbers wise, makes no sense.
Although a no-class system could work across many other sports, specifically basketball, asking Wyoming 1A teams from some of the smallest towns in the county to compete with 50-man rosters in Gillette and Casper isn’t feasible.
But there is plenty of room for contraction.
Dropping one class would completely change the dynamic of high school football in the state, in a positive way. I’ve watched dozens and dozens of high school football games over a four-year stretch in Wyoming.
Until Big Horn moved to 1A a year ago, we had three teams in three classifications right here in Sheridan County, which seems kind of odd in itself.
Now, Big Horn, which had plenty of success as the smallest team in 2A, is a power in 1A. We know Big Horn can compete with 2A teams — we saw it for years.
And Sheridan, the smallest team in 4A, has more state championships than any team in the history of Wyoming high school football, including three in a row. The Broncs are on the cusp of being a 3A team, so it’s certainly feasible that other 3A teams could compete with some of the state’s biggest schools.
Instead, the state’s top class doesn’t even have conferences, and teams have to travel the length of the state multiple times a year. If classes were combined and conferences established based on region, travel would be much less of a burden and conferences could create a new dynamic for postseason action.
With education funding crushing the minds of legislators, isn’t less travel for football teams an easy solution?
But travel costs would be just a beneficial byproduct of a bigger fix. There is hardly any parity in Wyoming high school football. We know the Broncs and Natrona will be two of the favorites in 4A every year. Cokeville has dominated 1A for years (and they should actually be playing 6-man).
Who knows what will happen if we throw new teams into the mix. Some of those dominant teams at various levels will be forced to square off for maybe the first time ever. Don’t we want to see that?
And not only at the top, it would help some of the bottom-dwellers, too. Cheyenne South has struggled to hang in 4A. But if you add a few 3A teams to the mix, there would be more teams on a similar level as South, now creating competition for playoff berths. And who knows what could happen in the playoffs?
If the Wyoming High School Activities Association condensed the state’s top classes from four to three, the average number of teams per class would jump by four. That may seem small, but it could definitely shake things up some.
High school football is the state’s most popular sport. Throwing in a few new unknowns and possible challenges will only build on the excitement for the sport.
Just because Wyoming is smaller than other states doesn’t mean it’s worse. But having four classes also doesn’t make it better.
Stay classy, Wyoming. But not too classy.