Early plans leave Sandy in the NWOC or perhaps moving to a PIL-Plus league

The OSAA is in the early phases of potential realignment to begin with the 2014-15 prep sports season.

The main emphasis in the process is to increase league sizes around the state to groupings of 8-10 schools.

“We’re early in the process, looking for input and trying to find some common ground,” Reynolds Athletics Director John Olsen said.

Seven years ago when the 6A model was introduced, leagues across the state were splintered leaving athletic directors scrambling to fill more than half their schedule with nonleague contests.

“Our biggest concern is league size,” Gresham AD Todd Nagel said. “With such small leagues putting together a schedule is difficult.”

Each of the new proposals call to reduce the number of leagues and eliminate the hybrid situation that grouped teams from different classifications together.

With new enrollment dividers, the 5A plan returns about a dozen smaller schools back to the highest level of play — most notably Sherwood which has become a powerhouse across numerous sports at the current 5A level.

“We don’t have enough schools in the state to support six classifications,” Barlow AD Terry Hanson said. “It just feeds that ‘give everyone a trophy’ mentality.”

In the 6A proposal, the Northwest Oregon Conference remains largely in tact with Hillsboro and Lakeridge coming into the league, while Sherwood would move to 6A as a member of the Three Rivers League.

In the 5A proposal, Sandy would be a 4A member in a PIL-Plus league that combines a mix of city schools along with NWOC foes Milwaukie, Putnam and Parkrose.

Sandy falls significantly below the enrollment cut-off for the big-school level and would need to petition to move up if it wished to rejoin the Mount Hood Conference.

With regular-season changes, come alterations to the playoff format, as well.

The play-in qualifiers games are expected to hit the chopping block.

“With the play-in model, we tried it and it didn’t do what we intended,” Hanson said. “The hope was to give teams a competitive game, but in fact those games haven’t been. We have teams travelling across the state and getting thumped.”

This past season, three winless football teams travelled nearly a combined 500 miles on play-in Friday, and none of those games were decided by less than 35 points.

The early discussion for playoff qualification has each league getting a handful of automatic qualifiers, while the state’s RPI system would award wildcard spots to fill out the remainder of the bracket.

The OSAA’s next realignment meeting is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 28, in Wilsonville.

“There are a lot more questions than answers right now,” Nagel said.

The OSAA is also considering a plan that would allow enrollment numbers be adjusted according to the number of students on reduced lunch plans. While not expected to cause a seismic shift in where schools land, it is designed to equal out numbers among schools by comparing students with a realistic chance to participate in the world of pay-to-play sports.

“When you look at the competitive balance numbers, there is a huge difference between the haves and the have nots,” Reynolds AD John Olsen said. “A school like us or McKay has 60 percent free or reduced lunch, while Lake Oswego is at somewhere around 10 percent. We just don’t have the same opportunity as kids from wealthier neighborhoods.”

Reynolds is among the largest schools in the state, and even with its adjusted enrollment number it remains solidly at the 6A level and is expected to remain a Mount Hood Conference member in any upcoming proposals.

Sandy Athletic Director Scott Maltman was unable to be reached in time for this story.

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