OSAA finalizes redistricting plan, raises ire with other proposals

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home athletes and coaches will see new faces on the other side of the courts or fields if the Oregon Student Activities Association executive board follows through with the final recommendation from its Classification and Districting Committee for 2014-18.

The committee is recommending moving current Sky-Em League member La Pine into the 3A classification and Sutherlin into the league. Sisters, Junction City, Elmira, Cottage Grove and Sweet Home will stay in the Sky-Em.

Sweet Home Athletic Director Steve Brown said he’ll be happy not to have to send students over the hill to La Pine.

“It may be 105 miles, but it’s freeway,” he said of the trip to Sutherlin, which was one of the original members of the Sky-Em when it formed. “It saves us that long trip to La Pine. Plus, I think it’s good for us athletically.”

Other significant changes involving teams Sweet Home frequently competes against include moving North Marion and Yamhill-Carlton into the Oregon West Conference with Cascade, Newport, Philomath, and Stayton, and moving Central into the 5A division and Taft to 3A. Both La Pine and Taft have petitioned to play down, due to their consistent difficulties competing in most sports at the 4A level and the fact that their student bodies are not significantly larger than the 4A cutoff of 331. La Pine has 381 and Taft has 365.

The upper cutoff for 4A schools has also resulted in La Salle moving back up to the 5A.

The OSAA is also working on proposed changes to the state championship qualification process in cross-country, track and field, and golf, among other sports. That plan, being formulated by the OSAA State Championship Committee, is raising the temperatures of coaches who say the changes are strictly about dollars and not about kids.

In a nutshell, the proposed changes that would reduce the number of athletes qualifying for the championships, in an effort to save money.

At the 4A level, in cross-country, the OSAA is proposing that all teams in the state’s seven 4A leagues compete in four regional meets, from which the top three teams and the top five finishers who are not on one of the qualifying teams would qualify for the state meet. Currently, the top two teams, plus individuals finishing in the top five at the district championships who are not members of one of the qualifying teams, are eligible to compete in the state meet generally held the first Saturday of November at Lane Community College.

That proposed change would drop the maximum of 133 boys and girls participants to 104.

A similar arrangement was implemented three years ago in wrestling, reducing the number of wrestlers qualifying for state and replacing district championships with regional competitions.

Sweet Home cross-country Coach Billy Snow vehemently opposes the idea.

“I don’t know what their objective is, but if it’s to get the best teams to state, this is not going to do it,” he said.

“For a lot of teams, (qualifying for the state meet) is their focus. They know they don’t have the guns to do some rattling at the state meet, but getting there is the goal. That’s true of Sweet Home.”

Snow also said he has concerns about the regions, which “aren’t balanced.” He said he sees teams from a stronger region eliminated in favor of weaker teams from another region, such as the eastern district, which would include the four-team Greater Oregon League, while others would have six.

Having regional, instead of district, meets would also require more travel and break up traditional rivalries, he said.

“They’re cutting opportunities for kids. At our level, we would go from 14 teams to 12. We used to have 16. It’s sad to see.”

Snow said some 6A-level coaches favor the new plan, but in the 4A it isn’t receiving any support.

“For our mid-level schools, I haven’t talked to a coach yet that likes it,” he said. “I’ve talked to 15 coaches, including some who have really been around a long time. They’re flat-out no – totally against it.”

Golf would follow the same process for boys. For girls, who compete in 4A/3A/2A/1A league and state championships, qualifications would switch from the top two teams, plus any top-five finisher not a member of a qualifying team, to the top three teams in four regions, plus the top three individuals not members of qualifying teams – similar to the cross-country proposal. That would drop the number of qualifiers from 81 to 80 for boys and 84 to 72 for girls.

In track the maximum number of athletes qualifying for each event would drop from 14 to 12 through a similar process of switching the qualifications from league to regional championships – a scenario that Snow, who is also Sweet Home’s head track and field coach, considers “even worse,” with longer meets, more expense for schools and less opportunity for athletes to qualify for state.

Instead of the top two finishers in each league championship, plus any athletes meeting a qualifying time or mark, the regional format would qualify the top three, plus any athletes who can meet automatic times or marks. Also, two wildcard entries would be selected from pooled regional finishing times or marks.

Snow noted that if every school in the Sky-Em League entered the currently permitted three athletes per even in a regional meet, events that require track lane assignments would have five preliminary heats per event, rather than the current two.

“It makes the first day horrendously long,” he said, adding that it would also be harder to put on a championship meet with 12 teams instead of six, requiring an adequate venue.

“Basically, you have two districts combined into one and everybody’s going to be doing it on the same weekend. It’s hard enough to do it for a district meet and now they’re multiplying it by two. It’s tough.”

The committee also has reached consensus to support current formats in basketball for the next time block at all classification levels. In lieu of eliminating consolation games the group has instructed the staff to explore the feasibility of moving current tournaments to less expensive venues and conducting consolation games off-site at local high schools or other available venues that could reduce expenses.

The committee reached a consensus to support reformatting the Cheerleading State Championships from a one-day, two-session event to a one-day, one-session event.

The committee is taking testimony from the public, which “should be concise and correspond to the information being presented.”

The next meeting of the State Championship Committee will be Monday, Oct. 21, at the OSAA office in Wilsonville, with public testimony beginning at 9 a.m.

Snow said community members and parents who want to write should address e-mails to Brad Garrett at [email protected] and should send a copy to Snow at [email protected] so he can forward it to Siuslaw Coach Chris Johnson, who is the 4A representative to the committee, so the coaches can keep track of what responses have been submitted.

“To (the OSAA), one size fits all for everybody out there,” he said. “One size is not necessarily good for everybody.”

“If this is a money deal, let us try to solve it. Come to the coaches and say, ‘Here’s our problem.’ They haven’t come to Chris Johnson, and he’s our rep.

“When I have problems in class or out on the field, I tell the kids, ‘I have a problem, you come up with a solution,’ and they generally do.”