Sports fan: New classification plan won't make everyone happ

New classification plan won't make everybody happy

Sometimes, sports fans must wonder about the logic behind the reclassification of schools that takes place every four years in Oregon.

Is the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) sitting behind closed doors scheming up controversial league match-ups for no good reason? Are there leagues with a little more influence than others, leagues that are more vocal in which teams should or shouldn't be a part of their districts?

The answer is no to the first question and maybe to the second. The Portland Interscholastic League, which has been split in recent years because of enrollment issues (Lincoln, for example, has 1,454 students, while Jefferson has only 351), has requested that the nine teams from the old PIL be grouped together once more as a 6A league. But, if all the schools agreed to rejoin the conference in spite of the difference in enrollment numbers — and it is vast — so be it. Schools can play up a classification for several reasons, one of which is proximity to other conference schools to cut down travel for athletes.

For the most part, the OSAA, led by Executive Director Tom Welter, listens to concerns and weighs many factors before its Classification and Districting Committee makes the final decision in alignment of its 291 association schools.

However, that still doesn't placate the schools that are moved out of their traditional leagues where the annual rivalry games are an important affair that pits not only rival schools against each other in the "big game" but also the communities against each other in a "friendly" battle… like the annual conference game between McMinnville High School and Yamhill County neighbor Newberg.

But, if the new classifications — the final draft is out — stick, Newberg and Mac High will be split into two different leagues, with Mac joining the Central Valley League (six Salem-area schools) along with Forest Grove and West Albany, and Newberg heading for the Three Rivers League. That's already created a bit of contention in McMinnville and probably in Newberg as well.

I understand the concern of both McMinnville and Newberg officials and community members, but Mac High just might discover that it likes the short trip south to the Salem area, where traffic is often a little lighter. Albany is only a half-hour from Salem and Forest Grove only a short ride north, so the travel factor shouldn't be a major concern. Too, the schools are all about the same size, ranging from West Albany's 1,261 to McNary's 1,702. Mac follows closely with 1,666.

However, the final draft for the four-year classification of the six levels of Oregon school athletics is not yet written in stone, so changes could be made before the four-year period is "locked in."

As the OSAA said in an October 9 memo to superintendents, principals and athletic directors, "It should be understood that the release of the Committee's Final Recommendations is not the final step in the public process. Member schools will also have the opportunity to respond to the Committee's Final Recommendations to the Executive Board in writing prior to and/or in person at the public meeting at which the Board will take action on the Final Recommendation.

"The Board will consider member school written input and public testimony prior to acting on the Committee's Final Recommendations, and the Delegate Assembly will subsequently meet to adopt the cutoff points and league quantities for the new time block."

The document continues to explain that "The Final Recommendations of the Classification and Districting Committee will be considered by the OSAA Executive Board and Delegate Assembly on October 28, 2013 at the Holiday Inn, Wilsonville. The Executive Board meeting will convene at 9 a.m., with the Delegate Assembly meeting to follow at 1 p.m."

The OSAA will accept written suggestions and proposals on any classification-related topics; they should be mailed or emailed to the OSAA (kyles@osaa.org). These suggestions and proposals will be shared with the OSAA Executive Board for review and discussion.

For more information about the reclassifications, click on to the OSAA website: www.osaa.org/governance/committees.

My philosophy is that changes are sometimes good for OSAA member schools. Form some new rivalries like my old school Gold Beach has done many times over. The Panthers have flip-flopped between 2A (their current classification) and 3A over the last 10 years due to enrollment changes. In the proposed reclassification, the school would be joined by three of its old rivals – Bandon, Reedsport and Myrtle Point – in the Class 2A Sunset Conference. Newcomers Toledo and Waldport will also be tossed into the mix.

That means lots of travel north for Gold Beach on windy Highway 101 roads in the fall fog and winter storms, something not to be envied when you consider that Toledo is a five- or six-hour drive up the Oregon coast in a yellow bus.

Mac High's longest trip to West Albany should take between 60 and 90 minutes. Lots of Oregon leagues would be happy if that was their longest trip for a conference game.

If you have an idea for a column or feature story or comment, please contact me by email at jwalker@newsregister.com or by phone at 503-687-1274.

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