Central Catholic could be placed in Mt. Hood Conference or Three Rivers League

For most Portland high schools, the future looks status quo as the Oregon School Activities Association gets closer to establishing new classifications and districts for 2018-22:

• The Portland Interscholastic League will remain intact and playing at the highest level (except possibly in football).

• Jesuit isn't going anywhere except the Metro League.

• St. Mary's Academy seems likely to stay in the Three Rivers League.

• Central Catholic is ticketed for either the Mt. Hood Conference or TRL.

• La Salle Prep and Parkrose, under an OSAA committee's latest proposal, would stay in the Northwest Oregon Conference. Tentatively slated to join them in the NWOC are Gladstone, Milwaukie, Putnam, Scappoose and St. Helens.

• Some 3A Portland schools may see changes in league competition — especially if the proposal is adopted that would put much larger North Marion and/or Estacada into the Lewis & Clark League, with Rainier among those moving elsewhere.

• Portland Christian appears headed back down one notch to the 2A Northwest League, based on its enrollment figures.WEBER

All in all, though, no big individual school upheavals are in the works locally, even though the OSAA Classification and District Committee favors going with five classes instead of the current six — while possibly creating a special six-classification format for football only.

The six-class football idea has had two proposals to date.

Both would have eight of the nine PIL teams playing at 5A — with Lincoln at 6A and in a league with Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, Oregon City, Tigard, Tualatin and West Linn.

One of the 5A football leagues in a special, six-classification breakdown would have, as currently drawn up, the PIL's Benson, Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt and Wilson aligned with Forest Grove and St. Helens — but this is very preliminary.

School officials and others may continue to give input and submit requests to the OSAA in the coming months.

In September, the committee will send its final classification and districting recommendation to the OSAA Executive Board for an Oct. 16 vote.

If a five-class set-up (with or without six classes for football) is approved— as seems likely — the OSAA State Championship Committee then would have to decide on the number of championships in each sport. For example, would 3A-2A-1A play together in soccer, golf, tennis and other activities?

But first comes the nailing down of the new leagues at each classification, whether there are five or six.

"Now we get down to the nitty gritty of league alignments and which schools are in what leagues," says Peter Weber, OSAA executive director.

As for Central Catholic, the OSAA committee tentatively has the Rams in either a seven-team MHC (with Barlow, Centennial, Clackamas, David Douglas, Gresham and Oregon City — the same as now, minus Reynolds) or in a nine-team TRL (with Clackamas, Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, Oregon City, Saint Mary's, Tigard, Tualatin and West Linn).

Other schools can go in more than one direction, too — and perhaps the biggest and seemingly inevitable quandary is what to do with Hermiston.

The options for Hermiston, which would be in the new 5A (largest) level include going west and into the MHC, or joining a proposed new Inter County Conference (with Bend, Summit, Mountain View, Hood River Valley, Sandy and Reynolds, as proposed) — or leaving the OSAA to compete in a Washington league.

Central Catholic athletic director Laura Jaeger says the school would make any move work — be that shifting to the Three Rivers League or having Hermiston as a fellow member of the Mt. Hood Conference — but there would be some issues for the Rams.

"If Hermiston comes into the Mt. Hood and we're still in it, we're not thrilled about that, but we're also willing to accept it's our lot in life, and we'd make it work," Jaeger says. "We're worried about academics and that our kids aren't missing too much school because of travel, and in the winter, especially, it's not always easy traveling through the Columbia Gorge."

Playing in the TRL would mean more local travel for Central Catholic and others in that league. Anyone who gets around, or tries to, between the city and suburbs knows how time-consuming and even iffy that can be.

"The proposed TRL is a very strong league — it would be highly competitive — but that's fine with us," Jaeger says. "We're just not crazy about the travel on I-205 these days. I'd prefer to travel out I-84. If we were in the TRL, we'd have to get our kids out of school earlier (for sports) than we do now."

Another thing to consider regarding Central Catholic, when it comes to possibly being in the TRL instead of the MHC, is home fields. The Rams have most of their home activities some distance away, such as Delta Park for softball, and Mt. Hood Community College for tennis and possibly swimming in the future. Central Catholic uses various venues in East Portland or East Country for baseball, golf and other sports. And, Rams football home games are at Hillsboro Stadium.

"Three Rivers League schools would have pretty far to go," Jaeger says.

One more issue still up for discussion with the OSAA committee and throughout Oregon is what the cutoff point will be for each classification.

As of now, the new 5A would be for schools with adjusted enrollment of 1,165 and more. Class 4A would be for schools from 545 to 1,164. Class 3A would be 217 to 544, and 2A schools would range from 90 to 216 (with some exceptions, such as the PIL, which plans to keep all its schools at the highest level).

Any tweaks to those numbers in the remaining months could affect the makeup of leagues and rivalries, as well.

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