The landscape of interscholastic competition in southern Idaho for the upcoming 2020-22 classification cycle changed Tuesday, Oct. 1 with a decision made by a vote of Great Basin Conference athletic directors.

     “We’re a league of seven,” Wood River High School athletic and activities director Kevin Stilling said Wednesday about changes in store for this region’s 4A classification of schools with student populations between 640 and 1,280.

     Starting in the fall of 2020, the 4A Great Basin Conference of southern Idaho high schools will shrink from the 10-school “Great Basin 10” to just the seven conference schools within south-central 4th District.

     The new conference will include Wood River, Jerome, Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge of Twin Falls, Minico of Rupert, Burley and Mountain Home.

     It will not include Century of Pocatello, Preston and Pocatello High, three southeastern Idaho schools in the 4A 5th District that joined the Great Basin league two years ago.

     Making the decision by a 4-3 vote Tuesday during a meeting in Jerome were athletic directors from the seven 4th District schools. Wood River voted in favor of the proposed change from the current 10 to seven schools, Stilling said.

     A significant increase in transportation costs in the two years since Century, Preston and Pocatello have joined the league was a primary consideration in Wood River voting for the change, Stilling said.

     He said, “We have over 10,000 extra miles for athletics since our league went from six schools to 10 schools last year.

     “We have also found our students are missing more class time on the day we travel, and they are often missing the first and second hours of school on the days after making the trips.”

     Making the decision was difficult, Stilling said, but ultimately “we had to do what was best for our school and for our students,” he added.

     From 2009-18, Wood River was a member of the six-school Great Basin Conference with Jerome, Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge, Burley and Minico.

     When the league expanded to 10 teams starting in the fall of 2018, Mountain Home joined along with the three southeastern schools.

     Mountain Home, Wood River and Preston were the schools most impacted by the increase in travel, he said.

     In the new seven-school league, the longest one-way mileage for Wood River will be about 100 miles from Hailey to Mountain Home, or about the same to Rupert and Burley.

     One-way mileage from Hailey to Preston is 220, and to Pocatello 152. Mountain Home expected 262-mile trips to Preston in the former alignment.

     The decision was made at this point of the school year because of two critical dates.

     First of all, the Idaho High School Activities Association at its Sept. 24 board meeting made its 2020-22 classification decisions that included a lengthy list of petitions from schools petitioning up or down based on population numbers.

     Canyon Ridge was the biggest Idaho school of 25 in the 4A category with 1,292 students as of last November.

     For IHSAA classification purposes, Canyon Ridge was listed as 5A, but its numbers were borderline with the 1,281-2,500 5A range during the 2018-20 cycle, so the Riverhawks were permitted to play 4A.

     When the IHSAA board met Sept. 24, it approved Canyon Ridge’s petition to remain 4A. That decision kept the old Great Basin league intact and allowed athletic directors to envision that for 2020-22.

     Stilling said this is the time of year that athletic directors develop football schedules for the next school year. The IHSAA deadline is Nov. 18 for submitting those schedules.

     Other petitions decided at the Sept. 24 meeting were:

     Caldwell and Nampa staying 4A despite 5A numbers; Shelley and Emmett staying 4A after having their petitions denied for 3A; and Idaho Falls High School and Skyview of Nampa remaining 5A after having 4A petitions rejected.

     Stilling said he understands Century, Preston and Pocatello will seek to join the 6th District High Country Conference that currently has five schools—Blackfoot, Bonneville, Hillcrest, Shelley and Skyline. That conference meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 8.

     “It’s very hard to schedule games with a three-team conference and I don’t envy them,’ said Stilling about 5th District schools leaving the Great Basin. But the new seven-school league has its own challenges.

     Already working to develop a 2020 football schedule for Wood River, Stilling said, “Having seven teams in the league is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle.

     “But we know we’ll be seeing more of Burley and Minico with home-and-aways. And we hope to see more of Buhl, Kimberly, Filer and Gooding for our non-conference games.”

Email the writer: sports@mtexpress.com

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