Digging a little deeper
In the Bleachers with BillyLast week, I touched on the different proposals the Oregon Schools Activities Association Classification and Districting Committee put forth to what could end up being the new classes for the 2014-2018 timeblock, but I thought I'd go a little deeper this week.
While all the proposals have their pros and cons, and not everyone is going to be pleased by anything the committee does (trust me, they know that), I thought I would offer some more in-depth analysis and put some words to my thoughts.
I'm going to stick with Madras' situation, since it's the one that can either be virtually unchanged, or turned on its head and beat against the ground. Culver is a different story, which I will get to in the future, but not with this column; I have too much to say about the Madras situation.
The more I look at these proposals, the more I'm in favor of six classifications. If you would have asked me about this two years ago, I would have told you the six-class system could take a hike into the woods and forget the way home. But with such a diverse group of schools in a state that's essentially defined by what side of the Cascades you live on, six classes address travel issues much better, and I think with a little adjusting of the average daily membership (ADM) figures, competition within league can be sustained.
As for the five-class model, Madras fans either should get their typing fingers ready to send letters to the committee, or get down on both knees and start praying for things to stay at six classes.
In the proposal, Madras would still be a Class 4A school, but the league they are placed in would change dramatically. In fact, it would look like the one they were in not too long ago: the Intermountain Conference.
While it wouldn't be identical to the old one, it's darn close. It would include Mountain View, Redmond, Ridgeview, Pendleton, Hood River Valley, The Dalles Wahtonka and Crook County. Bend and Summit, in this model, would be placed in the Central Valley Conference in Class 5A with Salem schools. And I'm sure they'd be welcomed with open arms, or not, because they wouldn't be.
The 4A ADM range in this model is 1,179 at the top to 580 at the bottom, so essentially the smallest school in the class could be more than twice as small as the biggest school. That is a big problem for the Buffs.
If it goes through as is, which probably won't happen but could, Mountain View would be the league's largest school with an ADM of 1,135. Madras would come in as the league's smallest, with an ADM of 591. That alone should make Madras not want any of the five-class model. Throw Redmond, Hood River Valley, Pendleton and The Dalles Wahtonka into the mix and that's a recipe for athletic disaster for the Buffs.
Madras is very competitive in the Tri-Valley Conference, so moving into a league with Mountain View, Redmond and Hood River, which are roughly twice Madras' size would be a bad move. Remember what happened to the football team after the Redmond game? Both basketball teams after the Mountain View games this year? Nonconference games against them are fine, but not league games. Not a chance.
There's also the travel issue going up and down Highway 97, but the Buffs have to go across Blue Box Pass on Highway 26 to get to all Tri-Valley competition, so that factor is a wash in that regard.
There needs to be some adjusting in the ADM range, and if 4A moves to a range around 1,200-700, that would benefit current Tri-Valley schools like Gladstone, Molalla, and La Salle as well as Madras by keeping them in the same class and league.
As for the six-class model, it doesn't need as much of an ADM range adjustment as it needs a map.
Right now, the proposal has the Class 4A range set at 665-325, which I think works well with one exception. Ridgeview High School, Redmond's newest school, has an ADM at exactly 666, the bottom of the Class 5A ADM range. If that gets bumped up ever so slightly, I've got an idea for a Class 4A league in Central Oregon. No going across Mount Hood in the winter for the Buffs for league games sounds awesome, doesn't it?
There are five schools of similar size in Central Oregon that need to be in the same conference. With the addition of Ridgeview, there is a viable option for a five-team Class 4A league in Central Oregon. I wish I could get a drumroll for this.
The Class 4A Central Oregon Conference, and please feel free to come up with a better name than that, would include Madras, Crook County, Sisters, Ridgeview and La Pine. Travel is condensed along Highway 97, the longest trip is from La Pine to Madras, 73 miles, and all the schools are similar is size. La Pine is the smallest with an ADM of 414, and Ridgeview is the largest.
Sisters and La Pine have played in the Sky-Em League for years, and it has been their only option because of their size and geographic location, but it's not anymore. Instead of driving 162 miles to Sutherlin or 116 miles to Creswell, they could drive 46 miles to Madras, or 51 miles to Prineville.
It would be easier on fans, too. Gyms won't feel like libraries. Atmosphere is such a vital part of high school sports, and the louder, the better.
I'm sure the committee will be swamped with proposals from across the state, and athletic directors, administrators and eventually the OSAA Executive Board need to take everything into consideration when making a decision. They are dealing with a Class of 2018 athlete's career, and I am hoping they can come to a consensus that will benefit the student-athletes.