Hood River petitions OSAA to remain in Mt. Hood Conference

Dear Hood River Valley High School,

Welcome to your new athletic conference. We have decided to move HRVHS into the Intermountain Conference next season because we need eight teams in the league to simplify scheduling. Hood River is the closest school on the map to Bend, Pendleton and Redmond, so that is why you have been chosen. By the way, you have to pay for all your travel, lodging and meal expenses. Have a nice trip.

That's one way to paraphrase a proposal that the Oregon School Activities Association redistricting committee will vote on Oct. 15.

All indications are that the OSAA would prefer to move Hood River Valley into the Intermountain Conference starting in fall 2002 to resolve a scheduling conflict presented by the conference's current seven-team configuration.

"The goal of the redistricting committee is to create a balance in all conferences in the state," said Mike Wallmark, assistant executive director for the OSAA.

"Our goal for every conference is to have balanced classifications prior to the state playoffs, and Hood River is the closest geographical location to the IMC schools. So far, we haven't been able to find an alternative."

But local residents Kathy Nishimoto and Fred Duckwall don't plan to go down without a fight. They have organized a petition outlining the long list of reasons this proposal would dramatically affect HRVHS athletes and their families.

"We're going to lose a large number of athletes if they are forced to drive to Bend and Pendleton every season," Nishimoto said.

"All that travel will cut into their studies. Plus, the kids won't have a family member at their games, and that's not right. Our kids deserve to see someone at each one of their games."

The petition, being promoted and displayed at local businesses and athletic events through Friday, outlines the reasons why such a move would be a severe detriment to HRVHS athletics:

HRV will incur an estimated cost of $15,500 for 17 overnight stays for student athletes, which does not include food costs or lodging and travel costs for parents and team supporters.

Travel time per conference round would increase from 16.9 hours to 37.65 hours -- a 223 percent jump.

Travel cost per conference round would increase from $2,222 to $4,935 -- a 223 percent jump.

Moving HRV to the Intermountain Conference is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. It is only a matter of time before a new high school is constructed in the Bend/Redmond area, which will solve the 7-team league problem.

Additional time out of school for travel and weekend commitments will negatively impact student participation, recruitment of quality coaches and parent support.

In addition, HRV's historical alignment with rivals in the Portland metro area would be lost, and independent schedules would have to be created for cross-country, swimming, track and golf.

HRVHS Athletic Director Glenn Elliott recently outlined a cost breakdown for such a conference move, and the total increase for one year of athletic commitments from the MHC to the IMC would be an estimated $30,139.

That includes $15,500 in overnight costs and an additional $14,639 in bus costs ($21,653 for MHC, $36,292 for IMC). Wallmark said the Hood River school district would be responsible for paying all additional costs.

Nishimoto points out that the implications on the school district's budget are tremendous.

"We're fighting just to pay our teachers a decent salary," Nishimoto said. "Now we have to cover thousands of dollars in travel costs for our athletes, too, when it doesn't benefit us in any way?

"The thing that gets me is that everyone in the Mt. Hood Conference wants us to stay," she said. "Hood River staying in the MHC is in the interest of all the schools, not just our own."

Wallmark understands Nishimoto's frustration and explained that the OSAA redistricting committee is faced with many difficult decisions every four years.

"Some schools like the decisions, others don't," he said. "In a case like this one with Hood River Valley, we have to look at who has the bigger burden -- the rest of the IMC schools or Hood River Valley. That is what the committee will try to determine on Oct. 15."

Nishimoto and Duckwall hope to get the petition signed by everyone in the community, whether or not they are actively involved in high school athletics.

Nishimoto plans to post a copy of the petition at Safeway, Rosauers, Pine Grove Grocery and others. She will also be walking it around to athletic events throughout the weekend and into next week.

The petition must be signed and delivered to the OSAA by Friday, Oct. 12 so it may be considered for the Oct. 15 vote. The committee's recommendation will then go to the OSAA board for final approval. All decisions will be made final Dec. 3, 2001.

"It is not without precedence that the board overrules a recommendation," Wallmark said. "The board could decide that the burden on Hood River Valley is too great and reverse the decision."

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