Forest Grove, Banks inch closer to new leagues
The winds of change are bound to blow, but for the Oregon School Activities Association and its Classification and Districting Committee change is inevitable — it's just a matter of where you're going and who you'll be playing when you get there.
The CDC, which has been working since October of 2016 on its quadrennial rearrangement of the state's high school sports leagues, held its tenth public meeting on June 20 and released its report from that meeting on June 29.
While the committee's work is not yet done — the group will meet again at 9 a.m. Aug. 28 and Sept. 25 at the OSAA offices in Wilsonville — it seems clear the committee is fine-tuning its proposal for the 2018-22 time block.
"The OSAA Classification committee is charged with a very hard task of making leagues that work for the 200-plus schools across Oregon," said Banks Principal and former Athletic Director Jacob Pence. "It's hard for each school and community to not look at each proposal and come up with reasons why that proposal won't work for their school.
"I believe in the process and the work of the committee. I know they are trying to do what's best for the overall state and all the schools in it and look forward to seeing what they come up with."
The latest model forwarded by the committee features six classifications and as currently constituted would have Banks dropping down to the 3A classification based on enrollment numbers from the 2015-16 school year. But Pence believes that when the numbers from the 2016-17 school year are released — a year in which enrollment grew significantly — the Braves will exceed the number necessary to maintain their current 4A classification, something he prefers.
"I believe that 4A in a six-class system would be best for Banks," Pence said. "We have many traditional rivalries and have been very competitive with those schools across all sports. We have enjoyed being the little school competing against the bigger schools. It gives our student-athletes a little extra motivation to go out and compete."
Forest Grove — which currently competes in the Greater Valley Conference with primarily Salem schools, West Albany and McMinnville — would be reunited in the Pacific Conference with at least three of the Hillsboro schools and potentially Hilhi (depending upon enrollment), Newberg and Sherwood.
"We're excited at the prospects," said Forest Grove Athletic Director Doug Thompson, who spoke at the most recent meeting. "We want to be with schools that have similar demographics and socioeconomics as us, along with a similar numbers of students. And Hillsboro fits that bill."
McMinnville — a longtime Vikings rival — is slated to continue with the Salem schools in the latest proposal, which pairs Bend-area schools with Medford. A previous plan had the central Oregon schools joining those same Salem schools, which would've sent Mac along with Forest Grove to the Pacific Conference — something Thompson preferred.
"It's too bad," said Thompson. "Obviously we'd rather continue our traditional rivalry with McMinnville, but this is a difficult process and you can't have it all."
Presently, there are 56 Class 6A teams divided among seven leagues. The OSAA's June 29 report again emphasized the CDC's "broad support for the six"classification system," while earlier proposals had considered reducing the number of classifications to five and arranging football leagues separately.
Until the OSAA gets new enrollment numbers in the fall, it will continue to work with the current cutoff points — schools at the Class 6A must have 1,194 students or more or must choose to "play up" — as it arranges the state's high school leagues.
Under the latest proposal, known as "Draft #18," the next iteration of the Three Rivers League would include the following schools (their current attendance numbers are in parentheses): Canby (1,316); Lake Oswego (1,307); Lakeridge (1,126 with a request to "play up"); Oregon City (1,940); St. Mary's (1,435); Tigard (1,771); Tualatin (1,770); and West Linn (1,707).
If adopted, this proposal would move Oregon City into the TRL from the Mt. Hood Conference while moving Newberg and Sherwood out to the reconstituted Pacific Conference.
Around the rest of the state, Draft #18 — if adopted — would bring about the following changes:
n The Portland Interscholastic League would remain the same, with four of its nine teams electing to play up.
n The Metro League would add new school Mountainside to its ranks, while moving Century, Glencoe and Liberty out to the Pacific Conference.
n The Mt. Hood Conference would add Sandy — currently a Class 5A school — to its ranks while moving Oregon City to the Three Rivers League.
n The Greater Valley Conference would move Forest Grove and North Salem out, with Forest Grove heading to the Pacific Conference and North Salem down to the Class 5A Mid-Willamette Conference.
n The Southwest Conference would add Bend, Mountain View and Summit.
While not set in stone, the latest proposal appears closer to what can be expected when a final decision is made a few months from now.