Banks athletics moving down to 3A classification
Banks athletics are on the move.
As part of the OSAA's four-year reassessment, Banks High School will be moving from the 4A classification's Cowapa League to the smaller 3A classification's Coastal Range League beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
"Our enrollment is trending downward," Banks athletic director Ben Buchanan said. "If you look at actual average daily membership (ADM) published by the Oregon Department of Education, we are the 16th-largest school in the 3A. In the 4A, we would be facing schools routinely two to three times the size of us."
Banks has seen its share of athletic success over the past decade, including state championships in volleyball, softball, football, baseball and boys basketball since 2015. During the 2018-19 school year, the Braves pulled off a rarely seen feat, winning state championships in football, boys basketball and baseball — something just two other Oregon schools had done.
Despite that success, however, the school opted not to play up to the 4A level — which schools have the option of doing — due primarily to a steady decline in enrollment.
"We originally petitioned to play up in October, but the decision to allow Scappoose, St. Helens, Pendleton, Crook County and North Bend to play 4A was a factor in us changing our mind," Buchanan said. "The biggest factor in joining the 3A was our enrollment."
Buchanan added that the decision was a difficult one, and one that was ultimately made by a collection of coaches and administrators including himself, Banks High School principal Jacob Pence and Banks School District Superintendent Jeff Leo.
"It was not a unanimous decision," he said. "We were split on the decision, as was I."
The new Coastal Range League will consist of Banks, Corbett, Neah-Kah-Nie, Rainier, Riverdale, Warrenton, and Yamhill-Carlton.
The 4A Cowapa League, which Banks will be departing, will consist of stalwarts Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook, with Scappoose and St. Helens joining next school year. Valley Catholic — like Banks — will too be departing the league and 4A classification, heading to the 3A Lewis & Clark League, consisting of Catlin Gabel, De La Salle, Horizon Christian, Oregon Episcopal, Portland Adventist, and Westside Christian.
Banks head football coach Cole Linehan, who guided the Braves to a state championship in 2019, a second-place finish in 2020, and a spot in the state quarterfinals this past season, seemed to agree with the decision despite the difficulties of leaving a league where they have well-established, competitive rivalries.
"It's tough to have to leave the league, but at this point, we'd be the smallest 4A school by I think 90-plus kids," Linehan said. "We're losing numbers rapidly, and there's still 15 schools in the 3A bigger than us, so it doesn't make much sense to play up."
Participation is down as well, with Buchanan saying that the school at times used to have as many as 60 to 70 kids for football, while they're projecting as few as 30 next season.
With both participation and enrollment numbers like the school is facing, Linehan said it's simply not fair to the kids to continually put them at such a disadvantage.
"It's one thing to play a school twice our size," Linehan said, "But when you start looking at facing schools three times our size, it's not giving our kids the best opportunity to be successful."
Hillsboro schools Glencoe, Century, and Liberty, along with Forest Grove, are all remaining in the 6A Pacific Conference, while Hillsboro High School remains in the 5A Northwest Oregon Conference. Gaston and Faith Bible will continue to compete in the 2A Northwest League.
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