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Lee: GSL could benefit from splitting 4A/3A

Competitive inequity.

Now that’s the new politically correct way of saying some teams aren’t capable of being on the same athletic field as others.

Last Friday’s football victories by 3A schools Shadle Park and Mt. Spokane over 4A schools Gonzaga Prep and Mead notwithstanding, there’s a competitive imbalance between the 4A and 3A schools in most sports in the GSL. It’s glaringly obvious in football.

GSL secretary Herb Rotchford plans to talk with officials from the 10 schools about the competitive gulf between the 4A and 3A schools. That’s not true for every sport or every school, but, by and large, it’s accurate.

It’s time for the 3A GSL schools to compete for a league championship of their own. Let’s be honest here. Only in a couple of sports can 3A schools challenge 4A schools for a league title.

“It’s about fairness, it’s about a level playing field,” Rotchford said. “We’ve got to think differently. We can’t keep doing things the same way just because it’s worked before.”

So what the GSL officials are going to look at initially is dividing the league into two divisions in football.

Whether that becomes a blueprint for other sports is to be seen.

I don’t have to say out loud which 3A schools historically have struggled or are struggling against 4A schools, especially in football. You see the scores each week.

Football was the driving force behind the split up a decade ago of the Inland Empire League into 5A and 4A divisions. The smaller 4A IEL schools just didn’t have the numbers to compete against the bigger 5A schools. The schools agreed to do the same in the other sports in the fall of 2009.

I must cop to full disclosure here: At first I was adamantly opposed to the IEL splitting up. I was under the twisted thinking that a league is a league is a league. I was wrong.

If most years the top five finishers in the GSL are the 4A schools and the bottom five finishers are the 3A schools, it doesn’t seem to be much of a league, does it?

Frankly, it’s not fair for 3A GSL schools to go into the football season seemingly every year without a realistic chance to challenge for a league title. Consider North Central’s situation. One of the oldest schools in the city, NC has the enrollment to be in the 2A ranks. So here’s a 2A-sized school trying to compete against 4A schools. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Divide the teams into two divisions and things could be quite entertaining.

So how would this look? Only games within a team’s division would count toward a league title.

All league games in both divisions should be scheduled for the final four weeks of the season. Teams could fill their September schedules with nonleague games against teams from the IEL, Mid-Columbia Conference or Big Nine. There also could be crossover games between teams in the two divisions.

Natural rivalry games between Central Valley and University and Mead against Mt. Spokane, for example, should continue.

I could see a number of crossover games because the outcome for 3A schools wouldn’t hinder their chances of competing in their own division and, in the long run, make them better. But playing four of those games takes a toll, especially on schools with smaller numbers.Some of the smaller 3A GSL teams could try to schedule games against the bigger 2A Great Northern League teams.If I were to poll all the coaches, I’m sure the majority would support two divisions. But coaches don’t set policy in the GSL. Officials believe it’s important to maintain the integrity and tradition of the league.

I hope that’s not an excuse masked as ideology – only for the purpose of maintaining the status quo.

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