OSAA needs to maintain focus amid complaints about new sports alignments for schools

It’s not too common, for most newspapers, to editorialize about sports.

They might congratulate a local team that’s won a big championship, or weigh in on some ethical dilemma such as the use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball or track, but sports is generally a bit light for the opinion page.

In communites such as Sweet Home, though, athletics often mean a lot to local folks. They may be part of the community’s identity and many people care intensely how the Huskies, or some other local team, do.

Sometimes sports is really important and that’s particularly true when what happens in sports impacts not only the identity of the community, but its pocketbook and its students.

That’s why we’re interested in the recent proposal by the Oregon School Athletics Association to realign the high school leagues throughout the state.

Under the plan, as we reported a couple of issues ago, Sweet Home would move from the 3A division into a new 4A designation, which would be one of six divisions of schools throughout the state. The largest schools would go into the 6A division, the smallest into 1A and everybody else in designations deemed appropriate in between.

The proposal would have the Huskies playing former rival Central, along with Newport, Philomath, Taft and Toledo high schools. Sweet Hope athletes’ focus would be turned away from Sisters and the north (North Marion, Molalla, Stayton and Cascade) toward the west, with three potential trips to the beach, so to speak, each league season. This alignment would actually add mileage to the Huskies’ league road games (from a total of 320 currently to 361 under the new plan), but it means not having to travel over the passes to Sisters, as some local officials have pointed out.

All in all, it seems pretty much a wash for Sweet Home in terms of the level of competition that will be there for the Huskies in most sports. The one exception, as was noted in our report, is wrestling. Wrestling coach Steve Thorpe is rightly concerned that his program may suffer in what he describes as a weaker league. But since wrestling, like cross-country, track and swimming, is an individual sport as well as a team sport, we can hope that the Huskies could get enough competition in tough tournaments and non-league dual matches to keep their heads shaved down to size and their focus clear.

So why say all of this? Sounds like a pretty good deal, overall, for Sweet Home.

Not surprisingly, it apparently isn’t for everyone ? particularly the large soon-to-be-6A and 5A schools in Eugene and even for little Mohawk High School in Marcola. Without going into too many gory details, schools such as Sheldon or South Eugene are looking at trips to Grants Pass and Medford instead of Marshfield, and Marcola simply thinks it’s being shoved into a division with larger schools where it doesn’t belong.

They aren’t the only ones. The OSAA Executive Board agenda for Oct. 24, when the proposal will come up for consideration, lists 25-plus schools that don’t like the plan and want something different. One of those schools, by the way, is Toledo, our own proposed future conference rival. Its stance is understandable: at 407 students it would have significantly less students than some other schools in the proposed new conference ? about half of Sweet Home’s student body ? and is asking to be put in a conference with schools of lesser size.

So there are a few wrinkles that Sweet Home football Coach Rob Younger, who sits on the OSAA Executive Board, and his fellow members are going to have to iron out.

The bottom line in all of this is that this new alignment is supposed to make things less better, in terms of travel costs and missed school, for as many schools as possible, while improving the competitive balance in some conferences.

It’s a worthy goal and, though not everyone may be happy with the final picture, it’s one that can and should be accomplished.