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Friday, March 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cardinals drop GNL for football

Fun fact: When you combine the initials of my name you get this – GSL. As a co-worker suggested, perhaps I was destined for the new job.

•I’m back from a one-week furlough.

You can imagine what my Monday was like this week. Going through all the e-mails and phone messages was the least taxing of the duties upon my return. I spent most of Monday trying to track down all the information regarding upcoming district/regional boys and girls basketball and wrestling tournaments in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Wow, do I miss Mike Vlahovich.

We return to our regularly scheduled column.

•With declining enrollment, Medical Lake has decided to drop out of the Great Northern League in football. The school hopes to remain in the league in all the other sports.

That decision, though, rests with the other GNL schools, Medical Lake athletic director Chris Spring said. GNL administrators will vote next week about Medical Lake’s future in the league.

Medical Lake hoped it would be able to drop from 2A to 1A for the next classification cycle, beginning this fall. The school’s enrollment average for the reclassification count was 527. Six other schools, including GNL member Pullman (523), ranked smaller than Medical Lake.

Spring said the school’s enrollment has dropped to 515 since the reporting periods. That number would put Medical Lake in a tie with Mt. Baker as the smallest school in 2A.

The school appealed to the WIAA last week, asking to move to 1A. But the appeal was denied.

A number of factors have affected and will continue to affect Medical Lake’s enrollment. One, more Fairchild Air Force Base personnel are living off base. The military is getting out of the housing business. Second, Medical Lake has a moratorium on building. Third, the city is in danger of losing other businesses because of the poor economic conditions.

“We have to protect our athletes and we can’t put them on a playing field where they could get hurt,” Spring said. “Last year was one of the most competitive teams we’ve had in a long time and we competed well, but we didn’t win a game in league (0-7).”

The Cardinals have won just one league game in the last five years.

Spring said things point to further declining enrollment. He said data shows the school’s enrollment could dip as low as 500 by next year and 470 the year after.

Medical Lake tentatively plans to play GNL schools Clarkston, Deer Park and Pullman next year, but will not play East Valley, which is dropping from 3A to 2A and will be the biggest school in the league, neighbor Cheney or West Valley.

“Our basis for making this decision was to eliminate our athletes from playing schools twice our size or nearly twice our size,” Spring said.

Spring wouldn’t specify which teams but said his schedule includes three games against Northeast A teams and three against Idaho schools along with the three GNL teams.

“We’re only choosing to do this in football because of the liabilities that are involved,” Spring said. “We may get beat 15-0 in baseball in the Great Northern League, but we don’t feel like we’re putting our kids in danger on the baseball field.

“It would be an unfortunate day if the league decided we’re not a good fit for them in any sport. We would not be fighting this fight if we didn’t feel it was worth fighting it for our kids.”

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