The leagues comprising the two largest classifications in North Idaho will combine for most sports starting next school year, according to a report by the Coeur d’Alene Press on Sunday.
The seven schools in the Inland Empire 5A and 4A leagues will play as one league for volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball starting with the 2020-21 school year, the report stated.
Members of the IEL 5A include Coeur d’Alene, Lake City, Post Falls and Lewiston. The IEL 4A schools are Lakeland, Sandpoint and Moscow.
The 5A classification in Idaho is for schools with more than 1,280 students in grades 9-12. All four IEL 5A schools are well above that threshold, with Lake City the largest at 1,644.
The 4A classification is for schools with enrollment between 640-1,279. None of the three IEL 4A schools have average enrollment higher than 1,000 students. Moscow, the smallest of the three, is at 763.
The seven member schools recently voted to accept the plan, though the vote was not unanimous – according to the report – with the Post Falls representatives as the dissenting vote.
The plan is for each school to play the others twice during the regular season, for 12 regular seasons games, then seed the classifications separately according to league record for district tournaments.
The plan was enacted to increase the number of league games the North Idaho schools would play each season.
Currently, the IEL 5A plays just six league games in the affected sports, the IEL 4A plays just four league contests. In Idaho, schools can play up to 21 regular-season games for basketball (including one three-game tournament).
Most of the 5A and 4A schools have played against each other in nonleague games in recent years. The remoteness of North Idaho from the rest of the state makes scheduling similarly-sized schools difficult, especially for the 4A schools.
Many of the Idaho schools have scheduled Greater Spokane League and Great Northern League teams for nonleague games in recent years. But the impending realignment of those two leagues will provide for fewer nonleague opportunities between Washington and Idaho.
For 4A member Sandpoint, 17 of its 21 scheduled basketball games are nonleague. Among them are Shadle Park, East Valley, West Valley and Medical Lake in nonleague contests, along with two against Lake City and one each against Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston.
Sandpoint also played a home-and-home series against smaller schools Timberlake (3A), Bonners Ferry (3A), Kellogg (3A) and St. Maries (2A) and a single against Priest River (3A).
Post Falls did not schedule any nonleague games against smaller Idaho schools this season in basketball. There are eight games against GSL schools, two versus GNL teams, and one with Moses Lake – another Washington 4A school.
The IEL schools played as one league for volleyball from 2000-08 and for basketball from 1997-2009 before splitting into two leagues for all sports.
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