School sports realignment and classification may not go that smoothly

What goes around comes around the saying goes. As far as school sports classification, it almost came completely around from where they started.

Every four years, the Oregon School Activities Association reexamines their classification system. Several years ago now they made the switch from four classifications 1A-4A to six classifications (1A-6A). It was tweaked several times and four years ago hybrid leagues were added, trying to alleviate traveling for some teams.

Things have basically settled down and the playoff system has been tweaked several times by the OSAA and by consensus in the classifications. The system where just about everybody played in a play-in game has been cut back for the 4A and 5Aby: SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington classifications to a system where the top “ranked” 24 teams are in a system. The 4A class gave league champions an automatic berth, but 5A stuck with just the top 24 by ranking, with the top eight getting an automatic berth.

So now the next quadrennial examination has begun. Originally, there was talk and a lot of meetings about dropping to a five-classification system, somehow redistributing schools from 4A-6A into 4A and 5A. A socio-economic factor was also suggested, but defeated in a vote. It would have equalized schools by subtracting 25 percent of their free lunch numbers from their overall enrollment.

That concept did not go away with its first defeat. It’s back and some realignment of leagues is being proposed, doing away with the hybrid leagues.

The latest proposal (Draft #5-6 classifications) came out in February. It still factors in a socio-economic factor, but that didn’t bring about massive changes.

For the Scappoose Indians, there is no change at all. The longstanding Cowapa League remains the same with just six schools—Astoria, Banks, Scappoose, Seaside, Tillamook, and Yamhill-Carlton.

It’s a little different story for the St. Helens Lions, but it’s not all that bad and not totally disliked by some in St. Helens. The Lions would have liked to go back to the Cowapa League, but that isn't going to happen under the latest proposal. The 4A class has enrollment figures of 335-749 under what is called Average Daily Membership. The 5A class runs 750-1,299. Remember these are adjusted numbers based on “socio-economic” factors.

Under the Draft #5 plan, St. Helens leaves the Northwest Oregon Conference and joins the Portland Interscholastic League. Liberty, a former NWOC team, and Hillsboro, also join the nine-team conference. The PIL would include Benson, Franklin, Jefferson (playing up), Madison, Roosevelt and Wilson, plus St. Helens, Liberty and Hillsboro. The other Hillsboro school, Century stays in the Metro League.

The new NWOC is probably the one league that will draw the most heat. Many of the Portland-area schools and some others will not be happy.

It is a nine-team conference with schools geographically from Wilsonville to Hermiston. Yup, Hermiston, The Dalles-Wahtonka, and Hood River Valley. Also, jumping up a class by request will be La Salle Prep. Those four and current NWOC schools—Milwaukie, Parkrose, Rex Putnam, Sandy, and Wilsonville make up the new NWOC.

It's the travel up the Columbia River Gorge that has those teams upset.

My feeling is that the PIL would be okay for St. Helens and might actually save some time and money. St. Helens tried to go into the PIL once before, but instead got thrown into the Three Rives League. That was not a good fit.

I'm wondering how the other NWOC teams feel about joining Hermiston, TDW, and HRV in a new league? I can't imagine that any of them will think that much of it. TDW and HRV are not that far out, but Hermiston certainly is. I don't know why they couldn't be in the conference with Bend, Mountain View, Redmond, Ridgeview, and Summit. It would make that league eight teams and leave the NWOC at six.

I recall Hermiston and the other two asking to be in the PIL before, but the PIL said no and “NO.”

Just the fact that this is Draft #5 should indicate it is going to be up for discussion. The classification committee is seeking comments. They felt including the three schools with Portland-area schools was feasible, especially since Pendleton dropped to 4A. It was a request by the three to do so, but I can't imagine it was a request by the Portland-area schools.

So, don't get too happy or upset just yet. As Betty Davis said, “Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!”

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