FONT & AUDIO
It's offical, Crook County will move up to Class 5A in next year
After more than a year of speculation, it's official.
Crook County will move up from Class 4A to Class 5A for the 2018-2022 time block.
The OSAA Executive Board made the decision to approve the final reccommendation from the Classification and Redistricting Committee at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville.
"It's done and we got our marching orders," said Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner. "So now we are going to do that. We will be 5A. It's not the first time we've been in a larger classification and our coaches and athletes are up to the challenge, even though it's not ideal."
The cxecutive board made the decision after taking three hours of testimony from 14 people, most from the Salem-Keizer area.
The testimony was at times heated, including parent Michael Rice, who became emotional and stomped out of the room following his testimony.
Following the three hours of public testimony, the executive board met for approximately 90 minutes behind closed doors in executive session before making their public vote.
The executive board also took testimony concerning the thresholds used to determine what classification each school will be.
The only member of the executive board to vote against the proposal was Mary Lou Boderman, the activities representative on the board, who is the coordinater of music and drama for the Salem-Keizer School District.
Following the executive board meeting, the delegate assembly meeting also took public testimony.
Although the executive board had already approved the changes, members of the Cascade High School administrators urged the delegate assembly to alter the enrollment thresholds between Class 4A and 5A.
Cascade athletic director Darren Drill was especially passionate about changing the thresholds.
"I need you to have the courage to make some changes," he said. "The reality is there are flaws in it (the final proposal).
Despite the plea, the delegate assembly voted to leave the thresholds unchanged.
However, the vote was not unanimous. as Cascade athletic director Heidi Hermansen, Coquille administrator Tony Jones, and Baker superintendent Mark Witty all voted against the classification thresholds.
Cascade, which officially has 687 students, six fewer than the number of students at Crook County High School when the reccommendation was made, was one of the most vocal opponents, threatening to play an independent schedule in football if they were moved up to Class 5A.
"Cascade fought hard, and so did we," Bonner said. "The mind was already made up, and I get it. Any change that we asked the OSAA or the Classification and Redistricting Committee to change, any change you ask them to do makes it hard on somebody else, so there's no easy way. We are not going to do independent schedules. We can compete at the 5A level and that's what we are going to do."
Cascade will be the smallest school in Class 5A with an estimated attendance of 687 students. They will be placed in the Mid-Willamette Conference, which has 10 schools, including some of the largest schools in the classification.
Meanwhile, Crook County has, once again, been placed in the Intermountain Conference.
However, this time the conference has a very different look. The last time Crook County was in the Intermountain Conference it was composed of Bend, Summit, Mountain View, Ridgeview, Redmond, Crook County, and briefly Madras.
This time the Bend schools have moved into the Class 6A Greater Valley Conference ?— with Salem schools, a move those schools have fought against as they don't want to have to travel over the mountains — while Redmond, Ridgeview, Hood River Valley, Pendleton, The Dalles and Crook County will make up the IMC.
Other than Hood River Valley with an attendance of 1,192, the other schools in the conference are just slightly larger than Crook County.
Crook County officially had 693 students, although their enrollment has gone down since the figures that the OSAA used were calculated.
The Classification and Redistricting Committee set the cutoff at 665 students, which at this point in time Crook County is just under, but they were above the cutoff when the decision was made.
Pendleton is just slightly larger with 721 students, while The Dalles has 729, Ridgeview 793, and Redmond 844.
"I think we fit in well with the new IMC," Bonner said. "Redmond and Ridgeview, we love those rivalries anyway, so now that we are back with them I think that will make for some good competition and fill the stands."
Bonner added that with the connections that Crook County now has with the Tri-Valley Conference, he expects to continue to schedule them for non-league contests, while Crook County will continue to schedule the Bend schools, at least for some sub varsity contests.
Although Cascade and Crook County both fought hard to remain in Class 4A, it was nothing compared to the protests from Salem area schools about being placed in a league with the Bend schools.
All three Bend schools have been above the cutoff for Class 5A for a number of years, but had been allowed to remain at that level as no Class 6A leagues wanted to add them, primarily because of travel issues.
However, with Summit winning so many state championships in the last few years, something had to be done for competitive balance at the Class 5A level.
The OSAA suggested moving the three schools to several different districts, finally settling on putting them with the Salem schools as that would mean the least distance to travel.
However, the Salem schools protested, saying that travel costs, loss of class time, and student safety were all reasons to stop the change.
The Salem area schools currently travel no more than 20 minutes to league contests, while they will now have to travel a minimum of three hours one way each time they play a game or match in Bend.
School officials noted that the longer travel time will mean significant increases in transportation costs. However, their biggest concerns were student safety on trips over Santiam Pass in the winter, as well as lost class time.
District officials said that they expected the increased travel time to lead to lower grade point averages for athletes, as well as some students being unable to play at all.
It should be noted that both Crook County and Madras currently make comparable trips over the mountains, and at least at Crook County it has not seemingly harmed student grades, as several teams, including volleyball, boys and girls cross country, softball, girls basketball and girls golf, were all named Carl's Jr. Academic All-State teams during the last school year.
The other Central Oregon school which will see a major change due to reclassification is Culver. The Bulldogs currently play in the Class 2A Columbia Basin Conference, which includes Heppner, Weston-McEwen, Pilot Rock and Stanfield.
Starting in 2018, the Bulldogs will be in the Class 2A Central Valley League along with Chemawa, Colton, Delphian School, Gervais, Kennedy, Santiam, Sheridan, and Western Mennonite.
The remaining Central Oregon schools will all remain in their current leagues. However, that doesn't mean that they won't see changes.
Madras stays in the Tri-Valley Conference, where Crook County has been replaced by North Marion, which moves from the Oregon West Conference.
Redmond's Central Christian and Bend's Trinity Lutheran remain in the Class 1A Mountain Valley League, which expands from 10 to 11 schools.
Mitchell, Wheeler County, and Spray, which co-op together at least for some sports, will remain in the Big Sky League, which adds Echo to what is currently a seven-team league.
For a complete list of all the classification changes that the OSAA has made for the 2018-2022 four-year time block, go to OSAA.org and click on 2018-2022 Adopted Classifications and Districts, which is located near the top of the home page on the right side under OSAA headlines.