The current 5A class will probably be gone within two years
by: Self-portrait, Sports Editor John Brewington

A committee has yet to be formed, but most of the high school coaches and athletic directors know that some big changes are not too far down the road in Oregon for classification of schools.

It was just six years ago that the Oregon School Activities Association added two more classes to give Oregon a six class system. They went into effect for the 2006/2007 school year.

Now it appears that the current 5A classification will be eliminated. It's a common consensus we hear: '5A is history. 5A is done. 5A will be gone.' We've heard that from several of those involved.

That major change means there will have to be quite a bit of realignment and some rethinking of the current ranking and what's called a 'play-in' system. Whether is will result in going back to the older pre-determined playoff slots will at least be up for discussion. There is pretty universal dislike for the play-ins. The teams on the lower end don't particularly like having to go play the teams at the top end. Those in the middle can sometimes get moved around so they don't play a league foe. League champions get little notice in many of the classes.

But I digress.

If the 5A class is gone, there are 37 teams that need to go somewhere. Certainly they can't put them all in what's now the 6A class nor drop them all down to 4A. The split will probably be more even with all the ones above (say 1,200 just for a working model) a level going up, and those below going down. They may also increase the lower limit of 4A, making the 3A class bigger.

It will become a numbers game and alignment with other schools will certainly be factored in.

The Northwest Oregon Conference will certainly change, if it continues to exist. If say an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of 1,200 were used, Sherwood, Liberty, and Putnam would all move up-based on last year's 2010/11 ADM. Milwaukie, St. Helens, Parkrose and Wilsonville would move down. St. Helens has suffered a population drop and is almost at 4A level now.

This is all speculation. Remember the committee has yet to be formed, much less meet.

However, this could also affect the Cowapa League. Scappoose, Astoria and Tillamook are in the middle of the numbers and will probably stay in the 4A. Seaside, Yamhill-Carlton, and Banks, however, are at the bottom. Banks was listed as the smallest 4A school in 2010/11. Yamhill-Carlton was third from the bottom and Seaside sixth from the bottom.

All that might leave an opening for a NWOC that includes Astoria, Scappoose, Tillamook, and St. Helens, Liberty, Parkrose, and Milwaukie. Just a thought. Probably won't happen. Don't get excited.

That would leave a bigger disparity in school size than now exists, but that type of combination could be used to develop leagues. Hopefully, most of the current hybrids will be eliminated or at least revised.

The current system appears to be continually evolving and that can be good. A new system was tried, some good things happened, and other not-so-good things were or can be changed.

Some schools didn't like the current reclassification from the get-go. Lincoln, Jesuit, Lake Oswego, St. Mary's Academy, Lakeridge, and Central Catholic all opted to play in the top division. Madison, Marist, and Jefferson petitioned to move down. Will the PIL schools now mostly go up? What will Roosevelt do? They're PIL and right behind Scappoose in the 4A class.

There's a lot of decisions to be made, and some hard work ahead for the committee. All was not well last time around. Several lawsuits were filed, and eventually some changes were made to accommodate the objecting schools. Travel over the mountains was the biggest complaint.

There are sure to be objections to whatever proposal comes this time around.

St. Helens is just hoping they don't have something similar happen to them that happened in 1999. St. Helens and Dallas are the only two schools to be moved up in the middle of a classification period. The Three Rivers League they found themselves in was never a good fit. That league is now scattered to the winds.

The one thing we would like to see is Scappoose and St. Helens back in the same league. Several of the teams played each other this year. Scappoose won some and St. Helens won some. Meaningful league games would make it even more interesting.

There's no way to predict what will happen when all is said and done, but perhaps a way will be found to make league championships more relevant in all the classes, and perhaps there will be few play-in games between the No. 1 and No. 32 teams.

It'll be interesting to see the proposals as they develop.

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