OSAA could look much different in 2018

Alex Pajunas/The Daily Astorian In this March 18, 2016, file photo, the quarterfinal matchup of the OSAA Class 4A Girls Basketball State Championship between the Seaside Seagulls and the Mazama Vikings takes place at Forest Grove High School.

From its founding in a one-class system under the Oregon State High School Athletic Association title in 1918 to the present day stance as a six-class system as the Oregon School Activities Association, the prep sports landscape has had many different appearances.

Another change is coming soon to the OSAA that could have a large impact on several local schools.

Beginning in October, the OSAA’s reclassification committee started re-evaluating member schools and drafting proposals for the 2018-2022 time block and an updated six-class proposal and a new five-class proposal are both on the table. According to a report by The Oregonian/OregonLive, several larger school representatives are in favor of the five-class model, while the majority of smaller schools are in favor of staying the course with the six-class system.

Weston-McEwen athletic director Shawn White spoke at the reclassification committee’s previous meeting in mid-December as a representative of all 2A schools in Eastern Oregon in opposition of the five class model. White said that he and the other athletic directors in the area were in unanimous agreement that the five class model would create some conflict.

“Our current system works well, it’s not broken so no need to fix it,” White said on Tuesday. “Our real complaint for the five classes is it doesn’t really change the larger school divisions, just moves a few around for some more desirable leagues, and instead adds roughly 20 of the 3A schools into the 2A, which brings up a lot of fairness and imbalance concerns.”

Also on the table for committee discussion is a football-only classification separate from either proposal. It’s an idea that’s been widely supported by athletic directors and school officials from across the state, including White.

“From our perspective, football is something we will have to look at sooner or later,” he said. “We are having more and more schools having trouble fielding teams at all levels, and with that plus injury concerns, I think we have to look at it separately and try to even the playing field.”

In this football-only proposal, which can be found at OSAA.com, schools were evaluated by various criteria such as total games played, games won, winning percentage, and average number of participants. Two local teams would be affected, as Mac-Hi was bumped down to the 3A level and Pilot Rock to the 1A level after scoring near the bottom in each of their respective classifications for those criteria.

Of course, nothing is final as of now as the OSAA committee has seven remaining meetings remaining before a final proposal will be made to the OSAA Executive Committee in October, so a lot can change. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 30 at the OSAA offices in Wilsonville.

Here is a rundown of the current proposals on the table from the December meeting:

● SIX CLASSIFICATIONS: With Hermiston moving up to 6A, Pendleton will be the lone 5A school in Eastern Oregon. The Buckaroos would move into the six-team Intermountain Conference made up of Crook County, Hood River Valley, Redmond, Ridgeview and The Dalles. At the 2A level, the Columbia Basin Conference combines with the Wapiti League to form an eight-team league comprising of Enterprise, Grant Union, Heppner, Imbler, Pilot Rock, Stanfield, Union, and Weston-McEwen. The 4A Greater Oregon League, 3A Eastern Oregon League, 1A Big Sky League and 1A Old Oregon League remain intact.

● FIVE CLASSIFICATIONS: With 5A becoming the highest class, Pendleton moves into the 4A Intermountain Conference with five other teams including Crook County, Madras, Redmond, Ridgeview and The Dalles. Mac-Hi would move down to the 3A level and join Baker, Burns, La Grande, Nyssa, Ontario, Umatilla and Vale in the Greater Oregon League. At the 2A level, the Wapiti League is comprised of 10 teams including Enterprise, Grant Union, Heppner, Imbler, Irrigon, Pilot Rock, Riverside, Stanfield, Union, and Weston-McEwen. Everything at the 1A level remains the same.

● FOOTBALL-ONLY SIX CLASSIFICATIONS: At the 6A level, Hermiston goes into Special District 1 with the likes of Barlow, Centennial, Central Catholic, Clackamas, David Douglas, and Liberty. At the 5A level, Pendleton moves into the 10-team Special District 1 with Century, Glencoe, Gresham, Hillsboro, La Salle, Putnam, Redmond, Reynolds, and Sandy. Mac-Hi drops into Class 3A in this proposal, and joins 3A Special District 3 with Burns, Irrigon, La Pine, Nyssa, Umatilla, and Vale.

At 2A, Special District 3 is comprised of Culver, Enterprise, Grant Union, Heppner, Imbler, Riverside, Stanfield, Union, and Weston-McEwen. Pilot Rock is a notable mover, dropping down to the 1A level in this proposal due to lack of recent success as well as lower average turnout compared to the rest of the class. The Rockets would join 1A Special District 1 with the likes of Echo, Cove, Enterprise, Powder Valley, and Wallowa, while Ione, and Arlington/Condon’s Special District 4 remains intact.

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Contact Eric at esinger@eastoregonian.com or (541) 966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.

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