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University football coach Rob Bartlett says moving up to the 4A ranks will be a challenge for the Titans. (Jesse Tinsley)

WIAA re-classification throws GSL out of balance

University will move up to 4A ranks

The 2A Great Northern League is shrinking by two schools and the 1A Northeast A will have a net gain of one with eight schools when the next 4-year classification cycle kicks in next fall in Washington, according to enrollment numbers released Wednesday by the WIAA.

And the Greater Spokane League will tilt out of balance when University moves to 4A. The league will have six 4A schools and four 3A schools. Mead’s enrollment could have placed it in 3A, but it opted to remain in 4A. Gonzaga Prep, with 2A numbers, has also opted to play at the 4A level.

Those are the major changes in store for area schools. Approval of the new classifications will be made by the WIAA executive board Jan. 27.

Deer Park and Colville will exit the GNL and land in the NEA. Kettle Falls, which moved to the NEA two years ago, returns to the Northeast 2B.

The departure of Deer Park and Colville leaves the GNL with five schools – East Valley, West Valley, Cheney, Pullman and Clarkston.

Concerned that a smaller league will create scheduling issues, EV athletic director Joe Kostecka held an emergency meeting with his coaches the day before the holiday break began. He proposed that the coaches consider opting up to 3A and joining the GSL.

The EV coaches voted three to one to stay in 2A. Kostecka believes a move to 3A is inevitable for not only his school but Cheney, which has been growing in the elementary and middle school levels in recent years. It could happen at the midway point of the next cycle, Kostecka said.

Four years ago, University considered opting up to 4A instead of landing where its numbers put it. However, the Titans coaches, except wrestling coach Don Owen, opted to move to 3A.

U-Hi has enjoyed much success in 3A. Last year, the wrestlers captured a state championship and in the 2012 football season U-Hi finished strong, advancing to the semifinals.

Now U-Hi will have to go against the established 4A schools.

“We’re excited about being part of the GSL whether it’s 4A or 3A,” U-Hi football coach Rob Bartlett said. “We have to look at it as a positive. I think everybody would agree that historically, for the last 10 to 12 years, the win-loss records have been advantageous for the 4A schools. That’s a fact. We’ll be the smallest 4A school in the league. It’s not going to be easier. It’s going to be a challenge year in and year out.”

U-Hi boys basketball coach Garrick Phillips agrees that getting out of the GSL specifically and out of eastern Washington in general will be difficult.

“The playoff picture definitely gets tougher,” Phillips said. “But in boys basketball if you can get out of here and to the State 4A level, there’s a chance for more success than in 3A. The 3A is very top heavy statewide. So it’s a tale of two situations for us. It’s tougher locally but better for us statewide.”

The GSL 3A schools received three state allocations in all sports this year. Whether that continues next year remains to be seen. The WIAA will set next year’s allocations at a later date.

In 2B, Liberty of Spangle will be the second smallest school. Tekoa and Rosalia have agreed to merge and will be in 2B. Rosalia is a 1B independent this year.

Oakesdale will be one of the smallest 1B schools next year. It tried to merge with Garfield-Palouse but Gar-Pal declined.