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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Back in the day, small schools took on the big boys

The Greater Spokane League will crown two football champions this season with their new 4A and 3A divisional set-up.

In the beginnings of high school athletics, there were no classifications by enrollment. Schools scheduled games regardless of the size of their opponent. Some smaller schools in the early days had some success against their larger neighbors. Valley High School of Menlo won the 1936 State Basketball Tournament defeating much larger schools along the way, including Lewis and Clark, to win the title. It was Washington State’s “Hoosier” moment.


In most cases, the larger schools dominated their smaller cousins and the WIAA, in fits and starts, adopted a classification program based on enrollment.  In 1931, they went to an A and B split of the schools, but that only lasted for two years. In 1942, they tried again, but the war years saw the single classification return.

In 1946, the A-B classification finally took hold, and the schools played under those two headings until 1957. The following year, saw a third class added and AA, A and B were the designated enrollment choices through 1968.

With more schools joining the fray, the WIAA went to four classifications in 1969, AAA, AA, A and B. The GSL began during this time and all the schools were AAA for the first three decades of the league. In 1998, a fifth classification was created, with the designations now being 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A and B. In a few years the GSL was no longer a one-classification league.

In 2006, The WIAA split the Bs in two, going to 1B and 2B. They also based the classifications on the number of schools in the state.  Each class now has about 64 or so schools.  You are allowed to “opt up” to a higher classification. Gonzaga Prep and Mead most recently have done that, both choosing 4A. The Bullpups actually qualify as a 2A school with their enrollment numbers, but have consistently opted up throughout the years.

While there are some grumblings over the number of classifications in Washington State, there is no doubt more schools, no matter their size, have been given a chance they otherwise might not have had, to participate in postseason activity.

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

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