Like any good coach, HRV Athletic Director Glenn Elliott had a game plan when he went to Portland Monday for the final meeting of the Oregon School Activities Association Classification and Districting Committee.
The OSAA would prefer to move Hood River Valley into the Intermountain Conference next fall. Elliott is doing everything he can to convince the committee that such a proposal would be far too detrimental to the school district’s budget and students' lives to work.
"This would be a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and frankly, it's not a decision everyone can live with," Elliott said.
Instead of poring over the same tired rhetoric the committee has been sifting through for the past seven months, Elliott, a former baseball coach at HRV, used logic to enhance his argument, asking the 10-member committee to examine three glaring issues before casting their votes:
1) Follow the criteria the committee set forth when it convened last April, which was to consider geography, league history, loss of class time, and financial impact before making a recommendation.
2) Listen to what other schools are saying about the proposed move that would send HRV into the Intermountain Conference, and move St. Mary's Academy from the Metro to the MHC.
3) Consider the long- and short-term implications such a decision may have on HRV and the IMC.
"Above all, we want the committee to reach a difficult decision that will stay made," Elliott said. "If we move to the IMC, there is no guarantee we will stay there. Who knows, we may be uninvited in a few years with the advent of a new high school in Central Oregon," he said.
No decisions were reached Monday, but Elliott and the other schools affected by similar redistricting proposals expect to know this week what will be recommended to the OSAA's executive board for its final decision Dec. 3.
"Our decision has by no means been made. Everything is still on the table," committee chairman Barry Rotrock said. "We will weigh all new testimony before making our recommendation."
Elliott believes there is considerable support on the committee and the executive board for HRV to remain in the MHC, and left Monday's meeting with the knowledge that any recommendation must still be voted upon by the OSAA board.
"We went through this four years ago, and the board backed us," he said. "But it would really help us to have that kind of support with the redistricting committee so our school doesn't keep coming up in these discussions."
Elliott argued that the committee didn't accomplish what it set out to do, which was to create balance within state athletic conferences after considering a list of criteria that included geography, league history, financial impact, impact on students, and more.
St. Mary's president Christina Friedhoff, whose all-girls school is faced with a move to the MHC if Hood River is relocated, sided with Elliott, saying the committee's criteria didn't match their recommendation.
"Since the start, we’ve been saying, 'Why St. Mary's?' And each time we ask the question, all we get is this proposal and no answer to our question," she said.
Friedhoff also talked about St. Mary's 33-year history in the Metro Conference and that it has support from the league’s nine other schools -- just as Hood River has the support of the eight other MHC schools.
"St. Mary's and the Metro Conference helped us out a lot today," Elliott said. "Metro wants to remain status quo just like the MHC."
MHC District Athletic Director Ron Berg agreed.
"Hood River is an integral part of our conference and has been for a long time in both boys and girls sports," he said. "St. Mary's doesn't offer the same competition in football, baseball and wrestling because of its all-girls status."
One of the IMC's arguments for adding an eighth team is that it would simplify playoff scheduling, but Berg cited that the MHC would have been presented with the same difficulty in football this season because one MHC school, Parkrose, opted to play an independent schedule. Without Hood River, the MHC would have been left with seven teams and no logical playoff format.
"Why should we correct a problem in one conference and then create a problem in another conference?" Berg asked.
Elliott agreed with Berg, and added that moving Hood River to the IMC is merely a partial solution to their problem.
"Both the Mt. Hood and IMC have inherent scheduling problems," he said. "This move might help solve the league issue for the IMC, but not the travel issue. They would still have to travel to Eugene and Roseburg for nonconference games.
"The IMC's main problem right now is scheduling, and we've shown over the years that we're willing to help by playing nonconference games with them.
"We've always been good neighbors and that doesn't have to change. We'd still like to compete with them, just not in a conference situation," he said.
Elliott went on to say that Pendleton and Hermiston -- two schools currently in the IMC -- could potentially come to the MHC easier than Hood River moving to the IMC, although the redistricting committee has yet to entertain that idea as an alternative.
"In the end, we should do what's right for the kids," Elliott said, "and with the loss of class time and family support, this is clearly not what's right."