New OSAA committee proposal would move Oregon City and Clackamas to the Mt. Hood Conference

The Oregon School Activities Association Classification & Districting Committee last week released its latest proposal for new league alignments for athletics beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The new alignments would move Clackamas and Oregon City to a new eight-team Mt. Hood Conference, where they would compete with teams from Barlow, Centennial, Central Catholic, David Douglas, Gresham and Reynolds high schools.

West Linn, Lake Oswego, Lakeridge and Canby would remain in a new nine-school Three Rivers League, where they would be joined by Newberg, Sherwood, St. Mary’s Academy, Tigard and Tualatin.

Not everyone is happy with this new proposal, which might jeopardize the longstanding rivalry between athletic teams from Oregon City and West Linn high schools. The football rivalry between Oregon City and West Linn dates back to 1921 and it is heralded as the longest uninterrupted high school football rivalry West of the Mississippi.

“The first thing that comes to mind is losing that rivalry [football game with Oregon City] that has been going more than 90 years,” said retired West Linn football coach Ron Chappell. “It would be a shame to see that go away. I’m not sure some people realize how important that rivalry is to our communities. Oregon City and Clackamas are two traditionally strong programs and they would be replaced by two traditionally strong programs in Tualatin and Tigard. So I don’t see any program there. But losing that rivalry would be a shame....

“We’ve had an alumni game between our schools the last three years, raising money for cystic fibrosis research, and it’s been attended by 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 fans. That has rekindled the interest and involvement by our two communities and it shows just how important the rivalry is — for both communities. Sure, we could play one another in a non-league game, but it wouldn’t be the same as playing a game that might be for a league title.”

“If they [follow through with the proposed alignment], it would be the end of the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi, and that would be tragic....,” said retired Oregon City football coach Ed Burton. “I know the OSAA’s argument will be that they can still play one another in a nonleague game. But who’s to say that some year, when one of the schools has a down year, an athletic director might decide, ‘Let’s not play them this year.’”

“We think [the proposed new alignment is] awful,” said Oregon City boys soccer coach Myque Obiero. “They don’t take into consideration the parents and players. West Linn is right across the river and the other teams [currently] in the Three Rivers League are nearby. Going to schools like Gresham and Centennial to play league games is going to mean more travel.”

Retired Oregon City basketball coach Brad Smith offered this input:

“It would seem that the logical move would be St. Mary’s [instead of Oregon City to the Mt. Hood Conference], as they are equidistance no matter what league they are in.... Past history, from many years ago, also favors that from when St. Mary’s was in the 80’s and 90’s. But the biggest reason to leave Oregon City [in the TRL] is the West Linn rivalry. In a time when high school sports needs attendance, money and interest, to take one of the nation’s longest rivalries and break it up makes no sense in light of how easy it would be to move St. Mary’s.

“The OSAA always talks about how kids are so important, but they make many decisions that do not show that. There is an old saying that seems relevant here: Sayings remain meaningless until they are embodied in habits. The habits of the OSAA seem to always be the same.”

Clackamas High School coach Jeff Erdman says that the Three Rivers League has had input into the OSAA’s latest proposal, and approves of the new alignment.

Erdman said, in an email: “Regarding the latest OSAA League Proposal, the entire TRL League was involved in developing the latest OSAA Draft of new leagues and then supporting this proposal that came about due to the PIL decision to have all nine [PIL] schools, regardless of their enrollment numbers, all play up in 6A. Even though we are not excited about leaving the TRL- as we truly do love our league, but entering the Mt. Hood League, along with OC, we believe is the best move for the ENTIRE makeup of 6A leagues, as it gives most leagues eight schools. This fact alone allows for improved league play and, due to the new power ranking formula, gives bigger leagues more chances to improve state playoff positioning by increased importance on league play.”

“We as a school are not very excited about it,” Oregon City athletic director Bruce Reece said. “But I know that there will have to be some changes in order to have larger leagues, which is what we asked for.”

Reece said that Three Rivers League administrators had hoped that the OSAA would go with five classifications, instead of six.

“That didn’t stick,” he said. “So we are ready to move to the next step.”

Other leagues involving area 5A schools Milwaukie and Putnam and area 4A schools Gladstone and La Salle would remain little changed under the latest league alignment proposal.

Putnam and Milwaukie would remain in the Northwest Oregon Conference, along with Liberty, Parkrose, Sandy, St. Helens and Wilsonville. Hillsboro would replace Sherwood.

Gladstone and La Salle would remain in the Tri-Valley Conference, along with Estacada, Molalla and Madras. Corbett and Crook County would join the league, and North Marion would move to the Oregon West Conference.

The OSAA Classification & Districting Committee has scheduled its final public meeting regarding proposed realignments at 9 a.m. next Monday (Oct. 7) at the OSAA office, 25200 S.W. Parkway Avenue, Suite 1, in Wilsonville.

The public may also give input through email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Emails received will be forwarded to Classification & Districting Committee members, according to the OSAA website.

The committee will make its final recommendations to the OSAA Executive Board at the Oct. 28 meeting of that body.

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